Maíria Cahill, a member of a respected Republican family from Belfast and a former youth activist with Sinn Féin, has recently sought vindication for what she regards as unfair treatment at the hands of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army – and Sinn Féin – during the late 1990s and early 2000s. She has convincingly argued that her complaints of a series of sexual assaults at the hands of prominent member of the (P)IRA in 1997-98 were subject to an inadequate military investigation followed by an internal cover-up. I have already made clear my own belief in her claims, even when one takes into account the distorted spinning of Ireland’s generally anti-republican newspapers, both nationally and regionally. Yes, there is some confusion in the sequence of events, as well contradictory statements, but the explanations offered by Sinn Féin and Gerry Adams in relation to the matter are so far unconvincing (and the hysterical reaction of some SF supporters is simply counter-productive). As the leader of arguably the largest political party on our island nation we need a fuller – and more reasoned – answer to the allegations made in recent days than has so far been issued.
However the images throughout the print and electronic media of Maíria Cahill standing outside the Oireachtas with Fianna Fáil leader Michaél Martin leaves one more than a little uneasy. FF, along with its establishment colleagues in Fine Gael and Labour, ignored the systemic abuse and maltreatment of thousands of Irish citizens in institutions funded or authorised by the state for much of the 20th century. Men, women and children; the young, the old, the ill and the disabled: all were abandoned to fates that still make headlines as each new historical revelation shocks the country. Those parties have yet to make adequate explanation or apology for their decades-old dereliction of duty (or connivance in criminal activities). Moreover unease turns to cynicism when one remembers Michaél Martin’s avowed aim of using any and all opportunities to attack Sinn Féin now that the latter threatens the fanciful restoration of Fianna Fáil’s electoral hegemony at the ballot box. The lameduck FF leader has spent more time criticising SF north and south on a range of issues than he has fighting for the rights and equalities of Irish citizens living in the north-east of our nation.
While significant elements of this country’s political and media establishments, the Irish continuity state, exploit this latest scandal within the (Provisional) Republican movement it is worth noting that those very same elements would otherwise deny that Maíria Cahill, or the community she comes from, are Irish people or citizens of this Republic at all. Some of the journalists and writers most prominent online in championing her cause are the very same ones who in recent months and years would have refused to recognise Ms. Cahill as Irish. Instead they would have described her as “British”. And when the outrage has died, and the story has faded from public consciousness, no doubt they will go back to doing so again.
My enemy’s enemy is not always my friend.