Briege Meehan, the widow of a former Sinn Fein councillor and leading figure in the IRA, is facing multiple charges of child abuse, including the alleged sexual abuse of her step-daughter, over incidents that are said to have occurred three decades ago.

Meehan, 65, is the widow of Martin Meehan who was once a senior IRA leader in Belfast. Her step-daughter Mary Meehan, who is now in her 40's, claims that she abused her between 1979 and 1980.

The Irish press is reporting that Meehan will face 15 charges including child cruelty, neglect and false imprisonment as well as several counts of sexual abuse against her step-daughter.Mary Meehan waived her right to anonymity.

If 65-year-old Briege Meehan is found guilty of the charges, she may face a long prison sentence and is certain to be placed on the sex offenders register.

Briege Meehan’s solicitor Patricia Coyle told the press her client remains entitled to the presumption of innocence and she welcomes the trial process in order to demonstrate her innocence.