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Alan Rusbridger

Máiría Cahill: apology by ex-Guardian editor over 2014 column 'not worth the paper it's written on'

The column in the newspaper questioned how the BBC investigated Cahill’s claim she was raped.

MÁIRÍA CAHILL HAS questioned the nature of an apology given by the former editor of The Guardian over a 2014 column written about her in the newspaper. 

Alan Rusbridger apologised to Cahill in an article yesterday over the piece by former columnist Roy Greenslade which suggested that a BBC documentary had been “too willing to accept” her allegation about being raped as a teenager. 

Rusbridger was editor of The Guardian when the column was written and now sits on the Commission on the Future of Media, which was recently set up by the Irish Government. 

Cahill, the great-niece of prominent republican Joe Cahill, said in 2014 that she was sexually abused as a 16-year-old by an alleged member of the IRA.

The person she accused denies all wrongdoing, and was acquitted of rape when the case against him collapsed.

Speaking to today, Cahill said that Rusbridger’s apology to her was unclear.

“I’m not really sure what he’s apologised for. He still hasn’t actually been up front about the fact that everybody knew Roy Greenslade wrote for An Phoblacht from 2008,” Cahill said.

“What he’s done, quite cynically in my view, is he’s written some mad article associating The Guardian with peace.

“The issue isn’t whether The Guardian supported peace or not. The issue is that Roy Greenslade’s editors should have had oversight and scrutiny of that [2014 column].

“I don’t think that his apology is actually worth the paper that it’s written on.”

Rusbridger’s apology came amid ongoing controversy about Greenslade’s support for the Irish republican movement while working for The Guardian and the revelation that he wrote columns for the republican newspaper An Phoblacht under a pseudonym.

After BBC Spotlight investigated Cahill’s claim in October 2014, Greenslade accused the broadcaster of being “too willing to accept” her story and of not pointing “to countervailing evidence”.

He added: “That is not to say that she was not raped. Nor does it negate her view that the IRA handled her complaint clumsily and insensitively.”

But in an opinion piece criticising Greenslade for not disclosing his beliefs until now, Rusbridger directly apologised to Cahill directly on Sunday.

“Had Greenslade been open with me back in 2014, I would have been able to come to a different judgement about it overall,” he said.

“So I am sincerely sorry to Maíría Cahill, both for the article and for the upset it must have caused her.”

The Guardian apologised on Friday night in an update attached to Greenslade’s original 2014 piece online.

“In March 2021, Máiría Cahill contacted the Guardian to complain that this article had been published and without disclosure of the writer’s political affiliations,” it said.

It added: “The Guardian’s readers’ editor considered the complaint and concluded that the columnist ought to have been open about his position.”

It said that after concerns raised by a reader following publication of the article in 2014 that Greenslade had not disclosed his Sinn Féin sympathies, he started to declare his writing during the 1980s for An Phoblacht, including in two more blogs relating to Cahill.

The Guardian added: “He now says he regrets that he did not add it retrospectively to this piece and offers his ‘sincere apology for failing to disclose my own interests’.

“Columnists are hired for their opinions but the readers’ editor considered that here the writer’s political position should have been indicated openly.

“The lack of disclosure was especially unfair to a vulnerable individual, and the Guardian has now apologised to Ms Cahill.”

With reporting from Press Association.