Thursday, October 30, 2014

"Sinn Fein always try to discredit victims of IRA crimes"

Even after the ceasefire, so-called republicans still believe their crimes are somehow not like other crimes - Jim O'Callaghan

Sinn Fein TD's Mary Lou McDonald, Gerry Adams and Pearse Doherty

The response of the Sinn Fein leadership to Mairia Cahill's allegations should come as no surprise. The same type of response was given by the Sinn Fein leadership to other evil crimes committed by its supporters after the rape of Mairia Cahill in 1997.

The first characteristic of the Sinn Fein leadership's response is that crimes committed by members of what it refers to as "the Republican Movement" are to be treated differently than crimes committed by others.

We know that Mairia Cahill says she was raped in 1997 by a prominent member of the IRA. We know that in January 1999 Eamon Collins was murdered shortly after he had given evidence against a well-known IRA member in defamation proceedings. We know that in January 2005 Robert McCartney was murdered by an IRA gang because he came to the aid of a friend who had been attacked in a pub in the Short Strand in Belfast. We know that in April 2005 Joe Rafferty from Dublin's south inner city was murdered in Dublin by a prominent IRA member because he had refused to be intimidated by that member who had worked on a number of election campaigns for Sinn Fein.

All of these crimes committed since the IRA ceasefire resulted in no credible steps being taken by the leadership of Sinn Fein to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. The reason is that the leadership of Sinn Fein does not believe that crimes committed by members of the IRA at any time, whether before or after the ceasefire, are the same as other crimes.

In this self-protecting Sinn Fein world, the rape of Mairia Cahill and the murders of Eamon Collins, Robert McCartney and Joe Rafferty are not crimes that should be properly investigated; nor are they crimes they wish to see resolved so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice. Sinn Fein does not want them investigated or solved because they were carried out by members of "the Republican movement" who deserve to be protected and supported by the Sinn Fein leadership, in the same way as that leadership supported the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe after they were released from prison.

Having made the decision that the perpetrators of these crimes should be treated differently to others, the second characteristic of the Sinn Fein leadership in responding to these serious crimes is to deny involvement by "the Republican Movement".

We know that originally Mairia Cahill's allegations were denied by the Sinn Fein leadership, with it only recently accepting that she was subjected to an IRA kangaroo court inquiry. After Eamon Collins was beaten and stabbed to death in 1999 near his home in Newry, Gerry Adams stated the killing was "regrettable" but added that Collins had "many enemies in many, many, many places", thereby suggesting that his murder may not have been carried out by the IRA.

After the murder of Robert McCartney there was an elaborate and extensive cover-up and clean-up of the area outside the pub in Belfast where he was murdered in order to prevent a proper investigation. At the time the Sinn Fein leadership stated that "no-one involved acted as a Republican or on behalf of Republicans". The purpose behind that statement was to suggest that the murder had not been carried out with the sanction or authority of the IRA leadership.

A similar defence was made in respect of the murder of Joe Rafferty when Sinn Fein representatives told Joe Rafferty's family that his murder had not been sanctioned by the IRA leadership. The fact of the matter, however, was that he was murdered by a member of the IRA who had worked on numerous election campaigns for Sinn Fein.

It should also be remembered that after the killing of Jerry McCabe the IRA initially denied any involvement.

The third characteristic of the Sinn Fein response is to circle the wagons and defend their own. The people involved in the IRA kangaroo court that subjected Mairia Cahill to further abuse were described as "decent people" who were simply trying to help. The reality is that they were intimidating her and trying to brush her complaints under the carpet.

Similarly, in the cases of Eamon Collins, Robert McCartney and Joe Rafferty, the Sinn Fein leadership had as its primary objective the protection of the perpetrators who were part of the "Republican movement". By suggesting that these murders were either not carried out by the IRA, or that they were unsanctioned acts of the IRA, the hope of Sinn Fein was to deflect attention from the IRA as an institution and suggest that these were isolated events that did not emanate from "the Republican Movement".

A fourth and really reprehensible characteristic of Sinn Fein in relation to these crimes is its attempts to discredit the victim. We have seen recently how the leadership tried to discredit Mairia Cahill by undermining her story. They accept it in part but refuse to accept that part which suggests knowledge and awareness on the part of the Sinn Fein leadership.

After Eamon Collins was murdered a local Sinn Fein councillor stated "He will not be missed. I have no feelings for Eamon Collins." Collins was so brutally murdered whilst out for a walk that initially it was thought he had been hit by a car. When it was discovered that his tongue had been cut out it was clear this was no car accident. After Joe Rafferty was murdered, certain people publicly and falsely suggested that he had been involved in drug-dealing. Although we do not know who spread these rumours, the likelihood, based on what we know about his murder, is that these lies were spread by people seeking to protect the member of "the Republican Movement" who murdered Rafferty.

The final and most important characteristic of the Sinn Fein response is to get the story off the news agenda as quickly as possible. They succeeded in this with Eamon Collins, Robert McCartney and Joe Rafferty. People have forgotten about those heinous murders that were committed after the conflict concluded. The rape of Mairia Cahill, however, is not going away as quickly as the leadership had hoped. The Sinn Fein leadership has portrayed itself as seeking to represent the weak and the victimised in society. Its response to Mairia Cahill, however, reveals that it is prepared to let the story stay in the news rather than doing the responsible and decent thing which would be to stop protecting its own and start believing credible victims.

Politicians have a duty to hold Sinn Fein to account for its response to these heinous crimes. This is a party that wants to lead the next Irish Government; that wishes to have control of the Department of Justice where it will be responsible for the gardai and our criminal justice system. No doubt Sinn Fein would also like to be given ministerial responsibility for the Department of Children. It would be a gross dereliction of duty if politicians from other parties did not seek to point out Sinn Fein's appalling record on justice and victims of abuse.

Jim O'Callaghan is a Senior Counsel and Fianna Fail Dublin City Councillor and legal adviser to the Fianna Fáil front bench.

Sunday Independent

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