The sexual abuse of children is akin to and inseparable from slavery, and thus sadly has molested human civilization for millennia. The past forty years have witnessed a cascade of revelations that have shaken religious, media, business, higher education, and now political organizations worldwide. As painful as have been these revelations, they can be among the most positive advances in human history if in the end they reduce the scourge of abuse. The abused ones who come forward are the heroes whom history should honor and remember.
For the past five years in Ireland, and especially the past few months, the child sex abuse accusations brought forth by the courageous and determined Mairia Cahill (born in 1981 in West Belfast), the grandniece of the former chief of staff of the IRA and herself the former National Secretary of Ogra Shinn Féin, have rocked the Sinn Fein party with greater intensity. Ms. Cahill (pronounced, caa’-hill, with emphasis on the first syllable) claimed to have been abused as a teen by an IRA member at a safe house, and to have been subjected to continual mistreatment by the IRA when she came forward with her accusations. In addition, Ms. Cahill claimed that the IRA simply “exiled” this alleged abuser south to the Republic of Ireland after forcing her to confront her alleged abuser in an IRA-staged extra-legal trial. Ms. Cahill furthermore has claimed that on numerous occasions the IRA secretly exiled sexual abusers to the south of Ireland, and perhaps executed some, and that Sinn Fein has systematically covered up these extra-legal actions for years.
Ms. Cahill has taken a growing, public role in the political arena with her accusations (you can skip to minute 4:05 for her own remarks) —
Sinn Fein for its part began first to respond, like religious and other leaders facing similar accusations, with outright denial, then an appeal for people to come forward with information, then apology, and most recently, their call for an all-Ireland “sex abuse initiative.”
Contrast the decisive statements of Sinn Fein politician Mary Lou McDonald against clergy sex abuse in 2009 —
with Ms. McDonald’s own positively “episcopal” statements about accusations of abuse late in 2014 —
In the past week, another victim claiming similar IRA abuse and coverup, Paudie McGahon, 40, came forward–
–causing a second shoe to drop for Sinn Fein.
There are numerous videos online of interviews and statements by Ms. Cahill, perhaps the longest and most dramatic being from the BBC Spotlight NI program late in 2014 —
I pray for Ms. Cahill’s safety, and for healing and even joy for her and other victims. She continues to put herself at great risk on behalf of others. Her presence of mind and spirit are indeed admirable, and are an example of the grand and good gifts that the Irish people give to the world.
Professor Liam Kennedy of Queen’s University Belfast has called for a wider inquiry into the abuse, both physical and sexual, of children by paramilitary groups, estimating five hundred such cases —
Such inquiries can contribute to what St. John Paul II called the “healing of memories.”
I offer only a theory in reflection: My theory is that the culture of abuse is historically paired with the culture of slavery. Dublin was used as a slave-trade center centuries ago by the Norse. I wonder if patterns of sexual abuse might be traced across millennia from similar ancient, slave-trading ports, which may have established patterns of sick behavior that hid within the more advanced culture that grew over such ancient ills. Abuse and organizations tending toward secrecy made and do make a deadly pair, and can perpetuate the abuse. Happily, the extraordinary witness of Ms. Cahill gives us hope that abuse is foreign to civilization, and not intrinsic to it.
For my earlier blog posts on slavery, see here.
For my earlier posts on pedophilia, see here.
© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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