Richard Crowley (RC) interviews Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams (GA) about the BBC Spotlight NI programme that reported about allegations of an IRA investigation
concerning the rape of a child.
RTÉ Radio 1
News at One
16 October 2014
RC: Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has rejected allegations in relation to a meeting he had with a woman who claims the IRA forced her to confront her alleged rapist who was a suspected member of the IRA.
Speaking on the BBC Northern Ireland TV programme, Spotlight, Máiría Cahill, whose great-uncle was Joe Cahill, said she was raped in 1997 while a teenager and was later interrogated by the IRA about her rape claim. Ms Cahill later went to the police and a case was brought against the alleged rapist and those said to have been involved in the IRA inquiry. The alleged rapist was acquitted after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence. The charges against the alleged IRA men were dropped. Gerry Adams joins us now. Gerry Adams, Good Afternoon to you.
GA: Good Afternoon, Richard.
RC: Can you tell us, and bearing in mind the legally sensitive nature of this issue – this story, what can you tell us about your meeting with Máiría Cahill? How many times did you meet her? When was it?
GA: Well, first of all let me say I've had to deal with abuse in my own family and I speak from experience when I say that allegations of rape have to be treated very, very sensitively – victims have to be treated with respect. And I continue to work with victims of abuse - and some of them have actually come to me because of my own experience - and I will continue to work with victims of abuse. As you note, the charge of rape was dealt with in the court. The charge relating to IRA investigations was dealt in the court and I don't think we can say an awful lot about that.
But I'm personally horrified that Máiría Cahill attributed remarks to me that I did not make.
I knew Máiría Cahill. I didn't know her terribly well but I knew her well enough. She was a young, friendly, young woman. She was from a Republican family. She was in the Sinn Féin structures for a while and active in the community. Her cousin, my at that time personal assistant and friend, the late Siobhán O'Hanlon, who was very concerned at Máiría's behaviour at a particular point.
RC: Can I just get in there to clarify this and I don't want to repeat the quote that she says that that's what she says you said - but the allegation against you, and it's a serious one, is that you were less than sensitive, even brutal, in what you said to her.
GA: Well first of all, that the BBC broadcast that I think is reprehensible and that's why I have put it in the hands of my solicitor - it isn't that I've put anything about Máiría Cahill in the hands of my solicitor - I'm very, very sensitive to the obvious trauma that she has been through.
But look, I'm a father. I'm a grandfather. I live in the real world. I would never make the remark that has been attributed to me. And if I can say so, just to make this clear: When it later transpired around the allegation of abuse, that this was at the core of Máiría's behaviour at this time, Siobhán O'Hanlon and I went to her Uncle Joe, Joe Cahill, because Siobhán told me that Máiría would not go to the RUC. And it was I who said to Joe Cahill: Would you go and talk to Máiría and tell her to go to the RUC about this issue? And Joe did that. And Máiría at that point - which is understandable in the time that it was in – but Máiría at that point would not go the RUC.
RC: Can you tell us about your own meeting with Máiría Cahill? When was it?
GA: Well, I can't be sure of the exact date because I did one meeting at Siobhán's request. But Siobhán had also told me just to keep my eye on her, to encourage her - she was singing – she was you know – just to be friendly - which I had no problem about doing - but I think it might have been in the year 2000 or thereabouts.
RC: And it was just the one meeting was it?
GA: No, we met but we didn't meet in any formal ... we met formally if you like by me saying: Look, I want to talk to you. Are you in diffss? What's the problem? Are you okay?
RC: How many times did you meet her to discuss the rape allegation?
GA: Well, at that point she didn't raise and I didn't raise this and in fact, if I have it right, we never discussed the rape allegation. She was in some personal difficulties presumably because of this rape allegation. There were a number of people who were concerned about her. I know she's named a number of other Sinn Féin people. I have talked to those who she has named and I'm absolutely certain, because these are sensible people, that they either told her to go to talk to her own family, to talk to the Social Services, to talk to the police...and just let me finish...
RC: ...Well, you're still not clear, Gerry, just on - did you meet her specifically to discuss her rape allegation or about what she was saying about the IRA inquiry/kangaroo court?
GA: No, no. I met her specifically at the request of her cousin, Siobhán, after there was some – either she - I can't remember the exact detail – but either had been taking into hospital – or she was ill overnight or she had some row or something and at this point I don't think that Siobhán O'Hanlon was aware of what was at the source of all of this. I certainly wasn't (crosstalk)
RC: Did you have a specific meeting with her or did you have a meeting in which if not just the rape and the rape allegation but what she was saying about the IRA inquiry, the one where she was effectively forced to meet the man against whom she had made the allegation? Did she discuss that with you?
GA: No, she didn't.
RC: At all? Never?
RC: Did you find her credible in terms of her comments or her statements about the rape itself?
GA: Well, I don't want to comment on that given that that's been before the court. I am absolutely sympathetic - obviously this woman has been through a very, very harrowing experience. She alleges that she was raped. I think we have to treat that in a very respectful way. When I went to meet her? I went to meet her in order to help. In order to day to her: Look, you know - you've plenty of friends here, you've plenty of family and so on and so forth...
GA: Sorry, Richard, I just want to make this point; this is a very crucial point: When it did transpire – I think on the back of a newspaper article which may not have been specifically about Máiría - Siobhán came to me and gave me the newspaper article and said to me: That's our Máiría who is a victim of this but she won't go to the RUC. And I said: Let's go and talk to her Uncle Joe and see if Uncle Joe could persuade her.
RC: Alright now, I think you've outlined that at the beginning of the interview. But in relation to what she says about the IRA inquiry or kangaroo court - call it what you want - you say that she didn't discuss that with you. Do you find her comments or her statements about that credible? Could that have happened to the best of your knowledge?
GA: Well, it's been dealt with by the court and...
RC: Well, is that the way the IRA did business at the time?
GA: Well, I can't comment on that but I do know is it shouldn't have - if that's what transpired. But really, this was brought to the courts...
RC: ... She said it did. Why would she lie about something like that?
GA: Well, I'm not casting any aspersions on what she is saying about that. All I'm saying is that this was brought before the courts – that the courts dealt with the issue - that those charged with that were acquitted in the court.
And remember now, when Joe Cahill puts it to his niece and other people had put it to her that she should go to the RUC and she wouldn't go to the RUC - which as I said is very understandable given the experience of Nationalists and Republicans at that time at the hands of the RUC - that's the dilemma I think for people looking back at this.
The fact is if this young woman was raped that was absolutely and totally wrong. If the IRA did deal with it in the way she said that was totally and absolutely wrong. But both of those matters have been dealt with in the courts...
RC: ...Did she name the rapist to you?
GA: No, she didn't. I've already said to you, Richard, we did not discuss that matter but let me say this...
RC: ...No. You said you didn't discuss the IRA inquiry but I wasn't clear whether or not you discussed the rape in any detail at all.
GA: I think you need to understand that when I went to talk to Máiría, as a very busy person who knew this young woman because of who she was and because she was in and around Sinn Féin structures and so on and so forth, I mean it wasn't a big lengthy meeting. Máiría has made other allegations – you know she said that I popped up all the time to silence her. Any Republican who talked to Máiría from the Sinn Féin point of view as a friend or a colleague of hers all told her: Go to your family. Go to the Social Services. Go to the police. Report this. And I come back to what I said earlier: I asked Joe Cahill and Joe Cahill went and said to her: Go the the police...
RC: Alright now, you've made that point, you've made that point twice in fairness. But thank you very much indeed for talking to us this afternoon. That's the Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams. (ends)