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SF distanced itself from 'Nelis' blog comments

Seamus McKinney derry@irishnews.com

SINN Féin has distanced it-self from comments questioning Mairia Cahill's abuse allegations which appeared to come from a former leading member of the party.

Claims that Ms Cahill had a "year-long liaison" with the man she accused of raping her were posted online by 'Mary Nelis'.

Mary Nelis is a former Sinn Féin councillor in Derry, who also served for six years as an assembly member and has been described as honorary president of the party in the city.

The comments are at odds with the party leadership, which has dissociated itself from the apparent endorsement by a senior republican of another blog claiming

Ms Cahill was involved in a consensual relationship with the man she said raped her.

Sinn Féin did not confirm or deny yesterday if its former Foyle representative was responsible for the remarks.

However, a spokesman said: "All those within Sinn Féin who have dealt with Maíria believe that she is a victim of abuse.

"We are conscious that a young woman is at the centre of this controversy. Abuse is wrong. It cannot and must not be tolerated."

Ms Cahill (33) waived her right to anonymity to publicly claim she was raped and abused as a 16-year-old in 1997 by a suspected IRA member and later interrogated by an IRA 'kangaroo court'.

The man she accused of abusing her, Martin Morris, was acquitted this year after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence.

Sinn Féin's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald last week condemned an anonymous blog that wrongly claimed Ms Cahill was above the age of consent in 1997 and therefore in a "consensual relationship".

The north's age of consent was 17 at the time of the alleged abuse and did not change to 16 until 2009.

Ms Cahill challenged Seamus Finucane - who she claims headed up an IRA investigation into her allegations, but was also acquitted in court - after he apparently endorsed the blog on Facebook.

Ms McDonald responded by saying the blog was "shameful" and its endorsement by anybody was wrong.

The latest comments were posted in response to a blog entry by political commentator Jude Collins. Writing after an appearance on RTE's Prime Time, Mr Collins wrote that "to the best of my knowledge no evidence has yet been adduced to support Ms Cahill's claims".

A contributor named Mary Nelis wrote: "Well said Jude. No evidence... No-one knows what happened unless they were present during this year-long liaison between Cahill and Morris.

"It would be realistic to suspect that the intelligences services know but as in the case of Kincora, they will maintain their political silence, in the knowledge that the establishment politicians, north and south will do the dirty talking for them, whilst ignoring Kincora and all the other political scandals useful to maintaining the status quo."

* COMMENTS: A Sinn Féin spokesman would not confirm or deny that comments made online by someone named 'Mary Nelis' could be attributed to former Derry councillor and MLA Mary Nelis, left. The comments claim Mairia Cahill, right, was in a 'year-long liaison' with the man she accuses of raping her

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