Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Micheál Martin

Question:

1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has discussed the allegations of sexual abuse and the use of kangaroo courts by the IRA with the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43802/14]

Micheál Martin

Question:

2. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has discussed with the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, concerns regarding sexual abusers being moved from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom by the IRA movement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43803/14]

Gerry Adams

Question:

3. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if, during the recent meeting of the British-Irish Council, he discussed with the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Mr. Martin McGuinness MLA, his proposal for an all-Ireland process to deal with the issue of those who were victims of sexual abuse during the conflict and who did not have access to proper support or were denied justice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46821/14]

Gerry Adams

Question:

4. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he has discussed with the Deputy First Minister, Mr. Martin McGuinness MLA, and the First Minister, Mr. Peter Robinson MLA, of Northern Ireland the proposition that an all-island process be established, through the North-South Ministerial Council, to deal with the issue of support mechanisms for those who were victims of sexual abuse during the conflict. [46822/14]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, together.

It is worth recalling that these questions arise in the context of allegations of the rape and sexual abuse of a young woman in Northern Ireland and her subsequent mistreatment at the hands of members of Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA.

I have had the opportunity and the privilege of meeting with Ms Cahill, and she is a woman of tremendous bravery and courage. Clearly, the issues raised are of a very serious nature, relating not only to serious criminal activity but also to the potential risk to children from people who were hidden away in our communities by these organisations. The Garda Síochána is currently investigating information on these issues which they have received from a number of people. These Garda investigations are ongoing and it would not be appropriate for me to comment on them, except to say that they are a priority given the child protection concerns and the seriousness of the alleged offences involved.

I would further add that it is important to continue to encourage people with any relevant information to come forward to the authorities.

I have not discussed the allegations of sexual abuse with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, nor did I discuss the issue with the First Minister, Mr. Robinson, or the Deputy First Minister, Mr. McGuinness, at the recent meeting of the British-Irish Council or at the North-South Ministerial Council, NSMC, in November. As Deputies are aware, justice and policing matters are not sectoral areas covered in the North-South Ministerial Council framework. North-South co-operation in these areas takes place bilaterally. However, the health and child welfare aspects of child protection are included in the NSMC framework. The plenary meeting in Armagh in December had a very useful discussion on child protection and noted that very good collaborative work is already taking place, both within the NSMC structures and elsewhere.

On the margins of this meeting, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, and the Northern Ireland Minister of Justice, David Ford, also had the opportunity to discuss the issues arising as part of their ongoing co-operation and work in this area. The Ministers are anxious to ensure that the issues arising are fully addressed and they are looking closely at the best way in which that can be done. The Minister is briefed on this issue on an ongoing basis. Arising from their discussions, the Ministers have tasked the relevant officials in their Departments to examine the legal and practical issues that might arise which relate to the issue of establishing forms of inquiry. Their officials are currently carrying out detailed, joint work in that regard and they will report on developments to Ministers in the near future. This process of examination is being done against the background of the various investigations, North and South, that are under way into aspects of this issue. As the House is now aware, more immediate and recent allegations have been made of a similar nature that are the subject of a television programme later today.

I ask Members to be very careful of what they say on this matter, which is being discussed at the level of the police authorities and An Garda Síochána.

I thank the Taoiseach for his reply. Very often issues get a wave of attention in the public media and then tend to drift to the side in terms of consistency of focus and urgent intervention mechanisms that should have been put in place to enable their further investigation and also to facilitate other victims to come forward. We were shocked by the Maíria Cahill revelations because they revealed a very dark side to the Sinn Féin-IRA movement over a number of decades, and in particular the degree to which sex abusers within the movement were protected as a deliberate strategy.

I put it to the Taoiseach that when victims come forward to speak, the very least that should be done is that they should be allowed to speak free of any attempt to undermine them or their integrity. I just spoke with Maíria Cahill before I came to the Chamber this afternoon. She again asked that the online campaign that has been ongoing on a daily basis to undermine her and abuse her should stop. I recall the words of the Tánaiste to Deputy Adams that he would please call off the dogs of war on Maíria Cahill in terms of the vicious online abuse that has been an unseemly feature of what has transpired since Maíria Cahill gave her interviews.

This evening, there will be further revelations on the "Spotlight" programme by Paudie McGahon, yet another victim of abuse by a senior IRA member. I met with Paudie McGahon quite some time ago. I did not seek the meeting, nor have I ever tried to utilise any of these issues for political gain, as has been alleged. That is a constant mantra trotted out by Sinn Féin and others. When victims come forward, they come forward. I have met victims in many different walks of life who were victims of various institutions. It just so happens that in this case two victims came to tell me their story and Paudie McGahon was one of them. It is a horrific story in itself about the abuse that was perpetrated on him by a senior member of the IRA, but worse again is the fact that a kangaroo court was held. He was invited to the kangaroo court by a Sinn Féin public representative and by the IRA movement. He was given a range of advices. He was informed that the member who had abused him was in custody and had been guilty of abusing other victims. They were invited to either dispose of the individual themselves; that the IRA would dispose of him; or other options.

Implicit in all of that is a refusal to bring all of that information to the Garda. The people in possession of the knowledge relating to Paudie McGahon should not have protected the individual concerned but should have sent all of the detail to the Garda, but they did not. He was told himself that if he whispered anything to the Garda, he would be found at the side of a road somewhere. That is the level of protection he got as a victim. It is extremely sickening to have to listen to protestations about the past and respite for people in the past when a case such as this happened in recent times, namely, 2002. Paudie McGahon was asked if he wanted to see an in-house psychologist that the IRA movement itself was making available to help him deal with the situation.

Deputy Adams himself said he is aware that the Provisional IRA took actions in relation to abusers which involved keeping the crimes away from the authorities, but so too did Sinn Féin on this occasion. There was not the usual divide between the military and civil wings in this respect. Both were acting in unison and concord in dealing with this particular case. Honest and transparent answers are required, not attempts to bury the case in the past and into a process which would mean it would not get any articulation. I asked the Taoiseach about the matter in my questions. I went to Belfast to speak with the Minister of Justice, Mr. Ford, in the aftermath of the Maíria Cahill case. I believe a cross-Border mechanism should be developed to at least facilitate other victims to come forward, who might not want to go public. Victims themselves can decide whether they want to go public. In order to get some sense of closure on abuse they suffered, there should at least be some opportunity to articulate it and bring it forward to a proper forum which would have the right capacity, backup and supports to enable victims to achieve that.

There is a need for far more urgent intervention with both the Northern authorities and the British Government. We hear a lot about the past, which is important, but this is just as important as other issues that have been dealt with on a government-to-government basis. I refer to big cases that were the subject of the Good Friday Agreement, the St. Andrews Agreement and other agreements. This is just as important but there is no excuse for it to be put to one side because it might not suit or be politically convenient. I ask that the Taoiseach would engage with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, and the Northern Ireland Executive to pursue the matter more vigorously.

Nobody doubts the seriousness of the issue. There should not be and there cannot be a hiding place for those who carry out those kind of offences. Under the North-South Ministerial Council, although it is not specifically part of the remit of the council, the issues are dealt with bilaterally. I did receive a letter from the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, in regard to a proposal for the establishment through the North-South Ministerial Council of an all-island process to deal with the issue of support mechanisms for those who were victims of sexual abuse during the Troubles, and that it would include support for victims of abuse in all communities and to ensure greater access to counselling and other supports for victims of abuse, and to facilitate victims and survivors in accessing the justice system and making official complaints. I responded to that letter because people should be aware of the specific processes ongoing in Northern Ireland, namely, the review by the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions and the reference to the Police Ombudsman's office in respect of a specific case.

It is important that the relevant authorities, North and South, are able to proceed unimpeded with their work in this regard. I completely agree with Deputy Martin that it is simply not good enough and absolutely appalling that a victim of abuse is being pressurised in whatever fashion, by whomever on the instructions of whomever.

The Deputy is aware that the Garda liaises closely with Tusla in respect of any child protection concerns that arise, in accordance with the standing protocol between the two services. It also liaises closely with the Police Service of Northern Ireland in respect of any criminal activity or child protection issues that arise.

As far as I am aware, since the Maíria Cahill revelations became public and the discussion in the Dáil, no new information has come into the possession of the Department of Justice and Equality arising from Ms Cahill's revelations or from information received by Deputies Doherty and Adams. This does not mean the Garda has not uncovered or come across information that is not yet known to the Department or publicly. It may well be that it has come across other information.

When this issue first emerged, we considered whether to have some form of joint North-South inquiry or commission. As the North and South are two separate legal jurisdictions, it is not as simple as it may appear to take this kind of approach. At the moment, we have close co-operation and the offices of the Police Ombudsman and Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland are carrying out independent investigations. The Garda is also liaising with Tusla and is in touch with the Department of Justice and Equality. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, and her counterpart in the Northern Ireland Executive, the Minister for Justice, Mr. David Ford, are obviously involved in the current situation and some further action may come out of it.

I am not sure whether one should set up an institution. The Deputy First Minister wrote to me about having a process by which these matters could be dealt with. A number of independent entities are already dealing with this and it is a case of deciding what is the best thing to do here. We do not want to interfere with the Director of Public Prosecutions and Police Ombudsman's offices in Northern Ireland or the relationship between Tusla and the Garda or the information that may be passing between them. However, nobody can argue with the seriousness of this matter.

I have not met Mr. McGahon who made comments publicly today and is, I understand, the subject of a television programme later this evening. We should all view this matter with the utmost seriousness. Those in organisations or entities who have information should come forward with it and those who have the courage to speak out should not be abused or pressurised on the instructions of people who might not want this kind of information to come into the public domain in the first place. I admire their courage and we should do everything we can to have this work done unimpeded and in a confidential manner.

This issue is far too serious for general assumptions. These are serious cases which the victims must carry with them every day of their lives. Politicians must decide what is the best thing to do here.

I very much appreciate the Taoiseach's appeal for people to be very careful about what they say in this House because these matters are under investigation by An Garda Síochána. This has not stopped the Fianna Fáil Party leader from naming a private citizen in the Chamber in the past in connection with the most serious of allegations. It did not stop the Taoiseach from asserting that some people suffered mistreatment at the hands of members of Sinn Féin, nor the Fianna Fáil leader from making similar assertions. Victims not only require and have the right to support, but no one should be pressurised or subjected to any campaign of harassment either online or in any other way.

I have also read in the media that allegations made by a County Louth man, Paudie McGahon, are to be rehearsed in a television programme this evening. The agencies to deal with allegations of abuse are An Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and social services. From what I have read, Mr. McGahon clearly feels badly let down. The Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach made the assertion that some of the abusers were associated with republicanism. If that is the case, they did not act in our name or in the names of the people who suffered for the republican cause over a very long time. Paudie McGahon feels badly let down and nothing I say may change that. This is a matter of very deep regret to me. Mr. McGahon needs support and justice. I am assured, contrary to what the Fianna Fáil leader stated, that when this case was brought to the attention of local representatives, the victim of the alleged abuse was advised in person and in writing to go to An Garda Síochána.

Last November, the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, wrote to the Taoiseach and proposed the establishment, through the North-South Ministerial Council, of a clearly defined, all-island process to deal with the issue of providing support mechanisms for all those who were victims of sexual abuse during the conflict. We know that one in four people suffers abuse, mainly by a family member, and that society has been remiss in dealing with these issues. The Maíria Cahill revelation brought a very clear focus on those who had been abused during the conflict and were not properly dealt with by state agencies, statutory bodies and, in some cases, republicans.

The Deputy First Minister's letter set out objectives to support victims of abuse in all communities, ensure greater access to counselling and other supports for victims and facilitate victims and survivors in assessing the justice system and making official complaints. In addition, the letter states that the anonymity and confidentiality of victims and survivors who did not wish to be identified should be acknowledged and protected. The Deputy First Minister also argued for the promotion of existing helplines and, if necessary, dedicated hotlines, North and South, to facilitate victims and survivors who wish to come forward. These are A, B and C steps that could be easily taken. The Taoiseach has not responded to these propositions in the way he should. The Deputy First Minister has written to him on three occasions and first put his proposals in November 2014. It is now March and Martin McGuinness has expressed his concern at the lack of engagement by the Taoiseach on his proposals.

I do not have any objections, and nor should I have, to these matters being rehearsed in this Chamber. A great deal needs to be done in terms of funding rape crisis centres, providing protections and so forth. However, we need to move beyond commentary and establish mechanisms and processes which deal with the unique circumstance of what occurred during the conflict.

If the mechanisms that the Deputy First Minister is putting forward are not sufficient and if we cannot get a North-South focus on this beyond what we have at the moment, the Taoiseach should bring forward some other proposition.

It is very disappointing that this has not been responded to in the way that it should have been. When we had the debate in the House last November I was very critical of the way the Government parties and the Leader of the Opposition dealt with the issues. I concluded by saying: "I suppose I should not judge them on what they say in this particular debate as we will all be judged on what we do to protect children and the rights of women." I believe we stand open to the accusation that we have not dealt with this issue in the way that it should have been dealt with.

I appeal to the Taoiseach once again. The fact that the Deputy First Minister has not got even the courtesy of a response to what was a serious proposition by him is disappointing indeed. This is for all the victims and all the survivors. Obviously, I have a clear focus on those who may have been victims of those who purported to be republicans. However, there are many other folks outside of that group who also need support. That between the two Administrations, North and South, we have not moved on this is a matter of some disappointment.

I have responded to the Deputy First Minister, Mr. McGuinness. He asked for a process to be put in place. I assume that means there would be an end to that process in any individual case. I presume that would mean a person or persons would be brought before the court and that the law would take its course. If an allegation is made about sexual abuse, either an individual case or in respect of an individual over a period, the process would be that if that person decides to speak out, he or she would be able to do so in a protected way and not be pressurised in any way subsequently. The situation from a legal point of view would be followed through, and if allegations are made against perpetrators, they would be brought before the authorities and a decision made on whether they are guilty or otherwise.

Two independent investigations are ongoing, undertaken by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Office of the Ombudsman. The Minister for Justice and Equality is briefed by the Garda as needs be and in respect of whatever information comes to the Department of Justice and Equality.

I have no wish to prejudge a television programme which, I understand, is taking place this evening, but I understand when the person involved met a Garda superintendent in October last year, he was advised of the supports available to him. He subsequently made a formal complaint to the Garda and a criminal investigation was launched. That investigation is ongoing. My understanding is that the person involved said that he had been abused by a member of the Provisional IRA who stayed at his family home, which was then deemed to be a safe house. He said his life was threatened by the abuser. I understand he has also alleged that his brother was abused, but he declined to be public about that allegation and has not pursued a formal complaint with the Garda. He maintains that he alleged in the early 2000s that he brought the matter to the attention of a local councillor who arranged for what he called a process to be put in place to deal with the allegation and punish the alleged abuser. He and another victim, his brother, were brought before a number of republican members, including a named person who is a former member of the Provisional IRA, to be interviewed about their allegations. He says that he was offered a choice of punishments for the alleged abuser, including that he would be killed, and that he opted to have him exiled.

This is a kangaroo court operating outside the jurisdiction of a democracy and the remit of the law of the land as we know it. I am unsure whether Deputy Adams has any information or has been given any information about this, but this kind of situation is intolerable. It goes back to what Maíria Cahill made public with her remarks to the effect that hers was not the only case.

If we are dealing with a process involving these serious allegations, then I am prepared to work with the Northern Ireland Executive First Minister and Deputy First Minister, just as the Minister for Justice and Equality is with her counterpart, whether through the North-South Ministerial Council or whatever. It is not as simple as it sounds to set up an institution covering two jurisdictions with different legal systems. At the end of the day, if people are sexually abused over a period or threatened and pressurised, then we have to have a system of law that can deal with that. If the allegations being made by this individual are correct, then it was clearly on the instructions of a person or persons to have a court of punishment and interrogation, and that has nothing to do with the law of the land.

For my part, in replying to the Deputy First Minister, Mr. McGuinness, I would point out that there are two independent operations, Tusla and its remit as well as co-operation between the Garda and the PSNI. There is consultation between the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister of Justice in Northern Ireland, together with their respective Departments. Aside from that I do not believe we need an institution for cross-Border justice. It seems as if the allegations made are that such an institution was set up illegally with threats of death, exile and interrogation at the core of it.

If it is a process the Deputy First Minister is looking for, I believe that through all these elements, organisations and agencies operating strictly within the law, it should be possible to have a process of support generally for victims of sexual abuse in any community. It should also be possible for those who have the courage to speak out in respect of many of the details, circumstances and names, in some cases, of persons who are alleged to have committed the offences and put all of that together. I am perfectly happy to speak to the Deputy First Minister, Mr. McGuinness, arising from my response to him to see how this might best be done. However, that does not involve getting into legalities about the different legal systems and how this might operate.

In this case there are allegations about republican abuse or abuse by persons who were members of the Provisional IRA. If a young man or woman has been sexually abused, they have to carry that with them all their lives. We should try in every way we can to see that they get the support and counselling they need and deserve, and that where allegations can be proven, the law of the land takes its course in respect of those who might have committed those offences.

I accept the Taoiseach's bona fides in endeavouring to deal with this issue. He is correct in saying that, in the Paudie McGahon case, we are talking about a safe house. I think Deputy Adams and those in Sinn Féin-IRA will have been very well aware of the circumstances of this for a long time, just as they were well aware of the Maíria Cahill case for a long time but chose to do nothing about it either, or about the entire system.

It is all very well for Deputy Adams to say, "We will be judged in terms of what we do now or into the future". I would like to think people would judge according to what people did when they first heard of these cases or what they did not do. We know from the public record of this House that Deputy Adams himself has admitted this and put it on the public record. He accused me of making some assertion about this earlier, and the Taoiseach too, but it was actually Deputy Adams on the public record in this House who said that the Provisional IRA took actions in regard to abusers which involved keeping the crimes away from the authorities, and that the IRA dealt with it itself internally. He then kind of said, "Well, that was unfortunate but they had no alternative". They put forward the untruth that it was because of the RUC and all this kind of stuff.

If we go through all of the sequences and the commentary that has been made, there is a complete thread of inconsistency between what is said one week compared with what is said the next week. That is why the bona fides of what Deputy Adams says has to be questioned. It is very difficult to take them on board given his track record in response to these issues on an ongoing basis.

Sorry, Deputy, I have to interrupt you for a minute. This is Question Time. I am in a very awkward position here. I understand the seriousness of the issues we are discussing but I cannot allow a situation where Question Time is being turned into a sort of semi-court and allegations are being made that I-----

It is a kangaroo court. A Fianna Fáil one.

Please, Deputy. I cannot allow a situation where, during Question Time, allegations are made, and they are allegations.

What allegations have I made?

Allegations of various acts taking place. Just be careful, please, because it is extremely difficult to chair a situation like this and to try to be fair to everybody involved. That is all I am saying.

I am just referring to the Dáil debate.

Okay, but it is still Question Time. It is about asking questions and getting answers.

Yes, but the context of my question is the establishing of a mechanism to deal with this on the public record. This is not an allegation. I am not making an allegation at all in regard to this. Deputy Adams himself has said that this is the way the Provisional IRA dealt with these issues, and that it was unfortunate and that it was a pity it happened that way. He then tried to say it was because of the lack of policing at the time and all of that. In these cases, however, both in the Maíria Cahill case and the Paudie McGahon case, we are talking about much more recent times.

I put it to the Taoiseach that the reason a mechanism is required is that there is a lot of fear. These people who come forward have been afraid for a long time. They are afraid of the IRA and the IRA community. There is a palpable fear in terms of what might happen to them. We cannot dismiss that because it is just the reality, and we can hear it from the mouths of those who have been abused. There is an absence of trust, particularly when they have been through the kangaroo courts in regard to these issues. There is a fundamental fear and an absence of trust. Not everyone will come forward and the majority will not come forward for those reasons. They will say to themselves: "Leave well alone." It takes a particular type of courage and commitment to come forward, and it is the individuals themselves who make that decision. I want to stress that point. We know from other inquiries, however, that if mechanisms are created with confidential frameworks and so on, it is possible to get a better understanding of what happened.

I am under no illusions, despite what has been said, that Deputy Adams himself will be very well aware of the mechanisms and the procedures by which the IRA dealt with all of these issues, because he said it himself. He denies other things. I do not know if the Ceann Comhairle would say I am making allegations if I say that I know he was a former chief of staff of the IRA. It has been said.

This is Question Time.

It just beggars belief that he would come forward here and pretend that he knows nothing about this-----

It is a Fianna Fáil kangaroo court.

-----or about the procedures or protocols, and so on. It just beggars belief. That is the point in regard to all of it. This is not something new. I think the Taoiseach needs to work with either the British Prime Minister or the Minister of Justice in Northern Ireland in regard to facilitating victims coming forward to deal with these issues.

The Garda and the PSNI continue to carry out their investigations on these matters. I have no doubt about the allegations that were made. We know the cost of ignoring information brought by children or young people generally in this jurisdiction, and of ignoring the seriousness of the allegations that many of them have made. However, when there are criminal investigations going on into a number of these matters, both here and in Northern Ireland, it is complicated to have a process running parallel to that. These are criminal investigations. It is important that the courts are there to deal with the end of that particular investigative process and that people are brought before the courts to determine by judge and jury whether they are guilty of allegations made. To have a process mixed up in the middle of that at the moment is not the way I think this should happen.

I know the Deputy First Minister himself admitted in public he was a member of the IRA. The names that are mentioned here are well known to them. I do not know whether Deputy Adams has spoken to the person who is named as a public representative. If there is information that needs to be given to the PSNI or the Garda, then it should be. This is a very serious charge. It is also a very serious matter to say that a person was hauled before people to be questioned and a range of punishment options set out for them to become judge and jury themselves.

I agree with Deputy Martin. Imagine a young man being fearful of something like this. Can we imagine the difficulty there was and the challenge it was for a young woman to make the allegations in public that she made? Despite this, we find that she has been pressurised and contacted in the most vile ways as a consequence.

The Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, and the Minister, Mr. Ford, have a very close working relationship in these matters, as have the PSNI and the Garda. I do not think any of us wants to interfere with the ongoing criminal investigative process, and I am quite sure it is a serious analysis by the PSNI and the Garda. I do not think I should put forward a view that, because this is proceeding, we should set up a process here. That investigative process is designed to lead to a conclusion that either there is validity or there is not, and, if there is, there are the court proceedings to follow. As I said during my reply to the Deputy First Minister, there need to be counselling services and support systems for victims of abuse in whatever community or wherever they come from. That is something that is dealt with bilaterally by the Minister for Justice and Equality, with the Minister in Northern Ireland, through the North-South Ministerial Council.

I can discuss this with Prime Minister Cameron, not on the individual cases but in terms of whether there is a mechanism through which we can deal with this, when criminal investigations cease, on the basis of support, encouragement, mentoring and protection. The courts are independent in the way they do their business and this would have to cross the two jurisdictions, but that should not prove to be an impossibility.

I take what the Deputy said in the sense in which he said it. It is something that now seethes inside people. They find the courage, after all these years, to speak out. We have to devise a mechanism to support that courage and protect people, while at the same time allowing criminal investigations to take place so that the courts can do their duty whenever that becomes necessary. Deputy Adams might have something to add to that in the context of the public representative named or the matter to which Deputy Martin referred, namely, former members of the Provisional IRA.

If these issues were not so serious and if so many people's lives had not been destroyed by what had occurred, the process of debate and discussion here would be a very educational one. The Fianna Fáil leader spoke about the IRA community, Sinn Féin-IRA, the IRA running Sinn Féin and so on and so forth. It is clear that, whatever affinity he may have with victims and survivors, he is using this to try to make political points against the party of which I am very pleased to be a part. He also misrepresented what I said in the Chamber. I acknowledged the failure of republicans, including the IRA, to deal with these issues properly, and for that I apologise, as Uachtarán Shinn Féin, because I think that is the right thing to do, especially as part of a process to face up to mistakes or failures and, in particular, to try to ensure that those mistakes and failures are not repeated.

The issue of abuse in our society is a significant one, to which we have not responded properly. We do not have the time to discuss these matters now. This is a very specific element of that, namely, those people who allegedly were abused by people who were purported to be IRA members. In my remarks I said I was assured by the local representatives who were contacted that they advised the victim, verbally and in writing, to go to the Garda Síochána. The Taoiseach went on to say, "Perhaps Deputy Adams knows more about this," and so on.

We should not deliberately confuse these issues. If the perpetrator of abuse presents himself or herself, or if anybody has any information about that person, it is to be given to An Garda Síochána or the PSNI, and the abuser should be brought through the courts. There are no ifs or buts about that. A survivor or victim came forward and made an allegation, which is what prompted Martin McGuinness to write to the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach now says he is quite happy to talk to the Deputy First Minister about his proposal. He wrote to the Taoiseach in November, and wrote three times in total. He outlined in detail the types of idea that Deputy Martin spoke about earlier, namely, not getting involved in due process, criminal justice processes or what might be jurisdictional issues North and South. Why could the North-South Ministerial Council not have met? Why could the Taoiseach and those in the Executive not announce an all-Ireland process to encourage victims and survivors to come forward and to deal with support and mechanisms for all of them? God knows how many people are out there who did not go to anyone, or who went to the RUC, loyalist groups and political parties and were not dealt with properly. Without getting involved in jurisdictional or criminal justice issues, and in view of the fact that none of these issues are sub judice, we could announce that and tell people that confidential support and counselling mechanisms are in place. That would have been, and still is, the thing to do.

The Taoiseach needs to appreciate something about victims. Every time these cases are rehearsed, that traumatises other victims. For people like Paudie McGahon or Maíria Cahill to come forward is very courageous, but other people have no support mechanisms, particularly those coming from what was described earlier as a period of conflict in the North which may or may not have overlapped here.

I again put it to the Taoiseach that the proposal put was above and beyond party politics, was victim and survivor-centred and could be put together easily without impinging on any other mechanisms. We in Sinn Féin have talked to some victims' and advocacy groups about this, and they continue to engage with us. They think it is a good idea that should be opened up in the way the Deputy First Minister has suggested. I strongly argue that this issue should have been prioritised. It should not have had to wait until someone came forward and a television programme was made or a journalist wrote a story.

The problem is that the Taoiseach made no substantive response to what the Deputy First Minister wrote to him about. I know good work is being done by both justice Ministers. I know, because I talk to them, that the PSNI and the Garda Síochána are co-operating on this and a range of other issues. When the Deputy First Minister writes to the Taoiseach about such an important issue, he at least deserves the benefit, courtesy and good manners of a substantive response. As I said in my earlier contribution to this discussion, if there is a better way of doing things, let us find that. That is our responsibility.

Whatever the failings of Sinn Féin in this matter, I am sure there are sexual abusers in all political parties, sectors of society, sporting organisations, churches, families and so on, and we have a responsibility to try to sort it out. When we reduce this particular issue to the type of soundbite-based invective being rehearsed here without any substantial evidence to support it, we let survivors and victims down.

I want to commend the proposal that has been put to the Taoiseach on four occasions in the past number of months and ask for it to be considered. I am repeating myself, but I listened very intently to what the Taoiseach said. This issue must not get confused with policing, judicial and justice matters. Rather, we need to send a very clear signal that, whatever about the sins of the past, the Executive at Stormont and the Government have put together mechanisms to help those who have been let down in the past, including, as I have acknowledged, those let down by republicans.

The signal we need here is that everybody should-----

Paudie McGahon is very clear in saying there were deliberate attempts to encourage him not to go near the Garda. He was very clear about that.

The clearest thing to come from this is that people should co-operate. Sexual abusers cannot be tolerated-----

-----and should be subject to the law of the land.

That is irrespective of who they are or where this comes from. The Deputy made the point that nothing was done after the Deputy First Minister wrote to me. It has been made perfectly clear on quite a number of occasions that these criminal investigations are being followed through and all of the allegations made are being investigated. If there is new information, that should be given to the PSNI or the Garda. The Minister for Justice and Equality sat down with the Northern Ireland Minister of Justice, Mr. David Ford, in Dublin two weeks ago and reviewed all of these cases.

I know all that.

They did not discuss the detail of this latest case. When the Deputy says the public representative involved advised the person, face to face and in writing, to make a complaint to the Garda, it is a very long way from what the person who was abused said, which was that what was arranged was a process to punish the alleged abuser and bring the person who was abused in front of a number of republican personnel who wanted to ask questions about it. They gave that person a number of options: they could either kill the alleged perpetrator or have him exiled. That is a very long way from saying "I am telling you, face to face, to bring this to the attention of the Garda and I will advise you now in writing to do the same thing."

If a councillor from my party was involved in something like this-----

He would be gone.

I presume the Taoiseach would want some evidence.

I am just making the point that the person who was abused-----

I understand that.

-----said that when he brought it to the attention of a Sinn Féin public representative, a process was arranged to bring the relevant person before a kangaroo court to be asked questions by named people and the witnesses to that. The options given to the person who was abused were that the alleged perpetrator would be killed or exiled.

The Taoiseach has the response of the Sinn Féin representative.

No, I do not. I am not prejudging the events in the television programme.

So the Taoiseach is not prejudging it?

I am not. This is what the person has said. The Deputy, who is the leader of his party, has stated that the person who was abused was told, face to face and in writing, that he should bring his complaint to the Garda, which he did in October 2014. There are supports available for people North and South who are victims of sexual abuse.

They are not good enough.

They work as well as can be. There is co-operation between the PSNI and the Garda. There was a recent review of these cases between the Minister for Justice and Equality here and the Minister of Justice in Northern Ireland, David Ford. There is the independent investigation of the Ombudsman and the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland, as well as Tusla here. The Departments work well together. The big issue here is that another kangaroo court was operational in the early 2000s, some ten, 12 or 14 years ago. That is what happened. As Deputy Martin pointed out, how many more are out there who are terrified?

That is why the process is needed.

The process has to be independent of the court proceedings. One cannot have an amnesty on sexual abuse.

Nobody is suggesting that at all.

There cannot be a situation like that. The perpetrators of this kind of crime need to be brought before the courts of the land, North and South.

We agree on that.

Why did you give them an amnesty for so long?

Deputy Martin is not a judge.

If the allegation made stands up, that is not what was offered to a victim of abuse who came forward and made a formal complaint to the Garda.

What about the Deputy First Minister's proposal?

That is just to dilute your culpability.

Deputies, please speak through the Chair.

A process was proposed to support victims of abuse in all communities. That is happening with the supports available North and South. There was a proposal to ensure greater access to counselling and other support for victims. That applies North and South at the moment. There was a proposal to facilitate victims and survivors in accessing the justice system and making official complaints. That happens, and the process is there. It is the outcome of the process that is of concern to us, specifically if people who use the process to make an official complaint are pressurised and named-----

-----or taunted in so many different ways. The First Minister asked for those three actions and they are already happening. Beyond that, the Minister for Justice and Equality regularly reviews with the Northern Ireland Minister of Justice the ongoing criminal investigations into these allegations. All of them are being investigated. It is not the case that nothing is happening. The process that the Deputy First Minister sought is already in place, but it is not a formal end of the North-South Ministerial Council and is dealt with bilaterally. It is about how to put in place some facility, if not a structure, to expand beyond the current arrangement whereby the two Ministers discuss these issues on a regular basis with the Garda and PSNI, along with the independent investigations that are taking place. I am not sure what more he refers to that can actually happen, when there is support, counselling and so on North and South.

As far as we can be aware, there are significant numbers of other people in Northern Ireland who have this information that needs to be brought out, and they are terrified that the same thing will happen to them. In other words, if they speak, they might find themselves on a lonely road or whatever. That is not acceptable in any circumstances, no matter what organisation those people were members of - the republican movement, the provisional IRA, or any party.

I do not have a difficulty saying to the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, or the North-South Ministerial Council what else we in this jurisdiction and in Northern Ireland can do beyond what is being sought by the Deputy First Minister, which is already in place. I do not want to prejudge the outcome of comments made or the response given by Sinn Féin public representatives or others who speak on their behalf on a television programme to be transmitted this evening. It is a matter of the most serious concern and one that should not be conditional on what we must do.

There are organisations that have information which could be useful.

May I make a brief response?

There is a minute left.

I will make a brief point. We are agreed that people should be subject to due process and that the Garda Síochána and PSNI should deal with the issue. We are agreed that people should have more counselling and so on.

Since when are we all agreed on that?

The Deputy's party has agreed to that because it is under pressure.

I do not understand why the Taoiseach did not make a substantive response to the Deputy First Minister and why he cannot embrace this proposal in order to put it on the agenda of the next North-South Ministerial Council.

I will tell the Deputy what he should do. He is the leader and president of his party. The Deputy First Minister is an admitted former member of the IRA. The Deputy and he could issue very straight statements to followers of their party or people who they know were members of the provisional IRA about these matters.

We have done so.

The time is up.

They will take a response from the Deputy.

We have had a good innings.

The McGuinness approach has been to dilute republican culpability in this. The McGuinness formula is a con job in many respects.

Those things are already happening.

There must be a specific forum and mechanism.

That completes Question Time for today.

The strategy of Sinn Féin has always been-----

This is Question Time.

-----to bury what it does not like from the past. It is selective in what it wants interrogated about the past.

Please resume your seat.

That is what Sinn Féin has always been about.

Deputy Adams should speak out on this now.

Question Time is finished. The bell is ringing for the Order of Business.

Deputy Martin is thinking about the by-election in Carlow-Kilkenny.

The Deputy can do more.

It is the only thing in his nut.

What did the Deputy say? Does he have a problem?

Written Answers follow Adjournment.