Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has again denied any cover-up by the party of sexual abuse by IRA members – and accused political opponents of exploiting the Mairia Cahill story.

Adams made the claims at a party event in Belfast when he also accused the media of politicizing the Cahill claims that she was subjected to an IRA kangaroo court after revealing she had been raped by a senior Republican.

Adams told the Sinn Fein event: “Let me be clear, Sinn Féin has not engaged in any cover up of abuse at any level of this party.”

He also criticized Irish PM Enda Kenny and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin for the ‘politicization of this sensitive and difficult issue.”

Adams said: “No one doubts that Maíria has been through great distress and that like every other citizen she is fully entitled to truth and justice.

“Over the course of the past week Maíria Cahill has made serious allegations against myself and other Sinn Féin members.

“While I am very mindful of the trauma she has suffered, I and the others she has named reject these allegations.

“And they, these allegations, have been seized upon in the most cynical, calculated and most opportunistic way by our political opponents.

“Their aim has little to do with helping victims of abuse but everything to do with following their own narrow political agendas.

“The serious and sensitive issues of abuse must be dealt with in a victim centred way by the appropriate authorities, instead they have been politicized in the Dáil, the Assembly chamber and the media.

“I am very conscious that a young woman is at the centre of this controversy so let me be very, very clear, abuse is wrong.

“It cannot and must not be tolerated.

“Let me be equally clear, Sinn Féin has not engaged in any cover up of abuse at any level of this party.”

The Irish Times reports that the Sinn Fein leader also described the accusations of an abuse cover up as a ‘vile slur against republicans across Ireland.’

He said: All Sinn Féin members who spoke to c about the abuse she claims she suffered as a 16-year-old have assured me they did all they could to support her and that’s what I did also.”

Adams also asked those criticizing Sinn Fein to compare their handling of the Maíria Cahill case with that of the Catholic Church in dealing with abuse allegations.

He added: “A cursory examination of the facts gives the lie to that ridiculous assertion.

“The Catholic hierarchy and the State......presided over institutionalized abuse for decades.

“It was systemic and deliberate practice. In sharp contrast Sinn Féin has encouraged victims to speak out.

“All the Sinn Féin members who spoke to Maíria Cahill acted in good faith toward her.

“They advised her to speak to her family, to seek counseling or to approach social services.

“How the various protagonists dealt with the issue of sexual abuse is clearly one of the legacy issues that needs to be resolved as part of the necessary business of dealing with the past.”

Adams again said that the IRA was not equipped to deal with abuse allegations.

He continued: “But the clock cannot be turned back. Sinn Féin cannot change what happened in the past but we can acknowledge failure and that is what I have done.

“Everyone, including us, has a duty to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

“IRA actions did fail victims of abuse. As Uachtaráin of Sinn Féin, I have acknowledged that. I am sorry for that. I apologize for that.”