By Eoin Molloy
Our politicians engage in a repeated cycle of obfuscation and blame-assignment that is of little benefit to anyone.
Fine Gael and Labour have a lot to lose. With the fast-approaching general election in 2016, they are slumping in the opinion polls. This fact, coupled with the rise of Sinn Fein, has surely been a cause for concern for Enda, Joan and the gang.
Therefore, it is human nature that they should want to snipe at their closest rivals by bringing up incendiary topics to discredit them. This would all be well and good, were the ‘incendiary topic’ not a human person who has suffered terribly.
Mairia Cahill was repeatedly raped by a member of the IRA when she was just sixteen years of age. We know this to be a fact. Her abuser was set free, and Mairia was told to remain silent by a ‘kangaroo court’ set up by the IRA.
It is hard for southerners to understand that there are certain areas of Belfast that are simply outside of the PSNI’s control. In these areas, the IRA has become judge, jury and executioner. Therefore, the argument of ‘why didn’t Mairia go to the police?’ is completely and utterly redundant.
At age 19, she wrote a letter to the IRA command outlining her disgust at the fact that the man who abused her (a man who was likely to offend again) would be afforded the opportunity to have a new life. She could not accept this.
And now, her story has become widespread. Everyone knows of her struggle. We admire her bravery. We commend her for coming forward. Mairia’s case seems unique, but they are undoubtedly many others who have suffered similar fates. These people now have a point of reference, an inspiration. Mairia is that inspiration.
The sickening thing, however, is that the FG/LAB politicians who accuse Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein in general of a cover-up, are not interested in helping victims. They are simply using Mairia as a chess-piece.
Fine Gael’s Regina Doherty and Labour’s Joan Burton were particularly vehement in their condemnation of Sinn Fein’s handling of the issue at large. They spoke of how Mary Lou and Gerry Adams ‘failed the children of the nation’.
They also derided Mary Lou’s attack on the government for their handling of the Magdalene Laundries abuse scandal.
But are these two things really comparable? The Magdalene case concerned systematic, state-sponsored abuse. Our Taoiseach wouldn’t even apologise for the abuse at first, fearing legal liability. I am well aware that the IRA may have engaged in abuse, but it was not state-sponsored.
Vague, sensationalist statements, such as that of Joan Burton, will do nothing to comfort victims of real abuse like Mairia Cahill. What we need is a cross-border, legally-powered investigation into sexual abuse, such as the one advocated by Michael Martin.
This blame-attachment, as it were, is a deliberate and obvious attempt by the traditional parties of government to discredit Sinn Fein and its leadership. That is not to say that Sinn Fein handled the case at all well, but we just don’t have enough third-party evidence to condemn them.
On the flip side, Sinn Fein responded by attempting to return the focus to the water charges debate. This is, obviously, a vastly different topic. The matter of water charges is fast-becoming one of the most divisive issues in modern Irish history.
Mary Lou McDonald undertook a ‘sit-in’ protest on Thursday the 13 of 2014 when Tanaiste Joan Burton refused to answer her question about whether or not the water charges could potentially be deducted straight from people’s wages.
While vastly different, these are both serious issues. Mairia Cahill’s abuser deserves to be brought to justice. Mary Lou’s question about the water charges deserves to be answered, but she must also be attempting to deflect some of the attention away from the Cahill case by re-opening the issue of the water charges.
One thing we have to remember is we elected these people to act. We want our politicians to solve problems, not cause them. The endless back-and-forth nature of party politics is dizzying and largely ineffective. Unless we have meaningful cross-party co-operation, nothing will ever be solved.
For now, it seems as though our politicians are content to squabble amongst each other for PR gains at the expense of solving actual issues. We need to remedy this. A parliament that bans political parties would be an interesting experiment. If there were no political parties, and all candidates were independent, there would be none of this pre-election one-upmanship. Whether our politicians would actually get more done or not remains to be seen.