Guardian pays damages to Mairia Cahill over Roy Greenslade articles

Mairia Cahill has welcomed an apology and a damages payment from the Guardian newspaper over two articles published by columnist Roy Greenslade, which “cast doubt” on her motivation in going public with a rape allegation.
Mairia Cahill.

Picture: Jonathan Porter/PressEyeMairia Cahill.

Picture: Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Mairia Cahill. Picture: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The articles were published in late 2014 in response to a BBC Spotlight programme that examined claims Ms Cahill was abused, aged 16, by an IRA member.

In his articles, Greenslade wrote that the programme-makers “were too willing to accept Cahill’s story and did not point to countervailing evidence”.

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Earlier this year, the veteran journalist and media ethics lecturer revealed that he viewed himself as a “messenger” who backed the IRA’s cause, and said: “I wanted peace and played a very minor role as a messenger at a crucial moment during the process itself.

“But I understand why the conflict occurred and do not regret my support for those who fought it. I am pleased at last to come out from hiding and explain myself to everyone”.

Greenslade has also confirmed that he wrote for the Sinn Fein paper An Phoblacht under a pseudonym. The Guardian said he had offered them a “sincere apology for failing to disclose my own interests”.

In a scathing rebuke, the Chartered Institute of Journalists said: “We have to emphasise that it is professionally incompatible for any journalist, let alone a national newspaper editor and professor of journalism ethics, to lead a double life of propagandising one side in any armed conflict with a fake identity while at the same time working for news publishers seeking to report on it.

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“A journalist cannot and should not be a double-agent for any government or paramilitary group using violence to further their political ends.”

In a public apology published on Friday, the Guardian said: “These opinion pieces criticised a BBC Spotlight NI programme which featured the sexual abuse of Mairia Cahill in the late 1990s, when she was 16, and questioned Ms Cahill’s possible political agenda in going public with her story.

“Mr Greenslade failed to disclose his support for the Provisional IRA and the Guardian now acknowledges that the articles cast doubt on the motivations of Ms Cahill and apologises for the distress which was caused to her.”

In response, Ms Cahill said: “Their apology speaks for itself.

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“Waiving anonymity as a child abuse victim was not an easy decision for me, but I did so to ensure that people would know what happened – and that coverage of my treatment as an abuse victim also traumatised by the republican movement would mean my treatment would be less likely to happen again to anyone else.”

She added: “I will continue to campaign on sexual and domestic abuse and engage with people across all communities in Northern Ireland to end the harm caused by paramilitary violence... so that no child will hopefully ever be in the position I was, in the formative years of my life, again”.

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Alistair Bushe