Mairia Cahill delivers Feile lecture

Mairia Cahill delivering the Gerry Conlon Summer Memorial Lecture at the West Belfast festival, Satuday August 1 2015. Pic by Tim Attwood
Mairia Cahill delivering the Gerry Conlon Summer Memorial Lecture at the West Belfast festival, Satuday August 1 2015. Pic by Tim Attwood

IRA sex abuse victim Mairia Cahill has delivered a lecture at the West Belfast Feile festival in which she criticised Sinn Fein.

Ms Cahill talked about the sequence of events in 1997 in which, while working for a radio station linked to the Feile festival, she alleges she was raped by a member of the IRA.

The organisation allegedly later conducted a “kangaroo court” bringing her face to face with her abuser against her wishes.

Delivering the Gerry Conlon Summer Memorial Lecture at the Feile on Saturday, Ms Cahill said she disclosed the abuse to a Sinn Fein MLA between 1997 and 1998 but that subsequent to that the alleged abuser was still a member of the Feile management committee. However, Ms Cahill said that not all members of the committee were aware of the abuse.

Ms Cahill also said the First Minister had told her that if the MLA had not later resigned from the Assembly the Sinn Fein representative could have been investigated by Stormont’s Standards Commissioner.

Ms Cahill said it was “unforgivable” that the man she alleges abused her was still involved in the Feile management committee after she had disclosed the abuse and added that as a result “children were put at risk”.

A court case against the alleged abuser collapsed after Ms Cahill withdrew her co-operation as a result of failings in the handling of the case by the PPS, who later apologised to Ms Cahill.

In October last year BBC Spotlight aired Ms Cahill’s allegations.

In the lecture, Ms Cahill also claimed that the alleged abuser was able to go on a community group residential with children after senior Sinn Fein figures were aware of her disclosures.

Around 150 people attended the Feile event, where Ms Cahill, a relative of the late republican Joe Cahill, said she would not back down to pressure from lawyers.

It has been reported that the organisers of Feile an Phobail were advised that some of those allegedly involved in the “kangaroo court” would hold the festival liable for any defamatory or abusive remarks against them.

“I will not be curtailed by the threat of legal action from anyone,” said Ms Cahill.

Her allegations were put to Sinn Fein by the News Letter. Last night a spokesperson replied: “Anyone who has any information whatsoever about any child abuse should come forward to the authorities North or South and they will have the full support of Sinn Fein in doing so.”

The lecture, at St Mary’s University College, was chaired by SDLP MLA Alex Attwood.