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.