Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams engaged in a heated debate yesterday about the Mairia Cahill abuse case.

During a session of the Irish parliament (Dail) Kenny suggested that Adams was withholding answers about the IRA’s handling of sexual assault accusations, while Adams refuted these allegations and accused Kenny and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin of politicizing the case to benefit their parties.

The Dail is now set to officially debate Cahill’s allegations in early November.

The exchange began shortly after Kenny met for 90 minutes with Mairia Cahill, a Belfast woman who claims that as a teenager she was raped by a senior member of the IRA and then interrogated by an IRA “kangaroo court” when she tried to make the assault known.

Kenny described Cahill as “a courageous, confident and brave young woman who is a force to be reckoned with.

"Her control was taken from her. She never ceded her own power and it's that power and sense for truth that brought her to government buildings this morning," he said.

He said that his conversation with Cahill had made clear “that there are a number of very clear questions that need to be answered.

“One of those questions concerns the movement of people from Northern Ireland involved in the IRA who were moved down to this jurisdiction [the Republic of Ireland] and are still here.”

“People know who they are, people know where they are, people know of their activities,” he said, “and it’s time these people spoke up.”

He stated that “the story Mairia Cahill has to tell is not just powerful, it will have serious consequences.”

Adams, who earlier conceded that the IRA had failed the victims of sex offenders in attempting to handle their cases internally, vehemently denied that Sinn Fein had “engaged in a cover up of child abuse,” calling the claim “a slur on thousands of decent republicans.”

He asked the Taoiseach to “accept that these matters – serious, difficult matters – need to be dealt with in a victim-centered way by the appropriate authorities and not politicized as they have been in this chamber.”

He also asked Kenny to meet with him and the individuals Cahill has accused in her abuse , four Republicans who had been acquitted after the proseciuion had dropped the casey, with the Taoiseach indicating that he would be willing to do so.

In an interview with RTE, Cahill described her talk with Kenny as “very useful and said it was exactly how a victim of sexual abuse should be listened to.”

She thanked the Taoiseach for “his compassion, for listening intently and for agreeing to do something about her situation.”

Meanwhile, the attorneys for Seamus Finucane, Maura McCrory, Padraic Wilson and Briege Wright, the four accused by Cahill, released a statement yesterday on their clients' behalf, condemning the “media onslaught” they have been subjected to.

The statement notes that all four were previously investigated by Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service, but were acquitted when Cahill declined to participate in cross-examination in court.

It says that “their acquittals have been either ignored or devalued” and that “the rule of law has been subverted by the ongoing trial of the media” against the four accused.

She also said that she was considering taking legal action against Sinn Fein for defamation.

In a statement given later in the day, Gerry Adams further refuted the question raised by Kenny and Micheal Martin that he had knowledge of IRA sex offenders being moved across the border.

"I want once again to reject in the strongest possible terms, entirely malicious and spurious allegations by the Taoiseach and the Fianna Fail leader that I have any information regarding abusers being moved from the North, across border to this jurisdiction or anywhere else,” he said.

"If anyone – and that includes Mr. Kenny or Mr. Martin – have information regarding the whereabouts of anyone who is a potential threat to members of the community, they should make that information known to An Garda Síochána [Ireland’s police force]."