Briege Meehan to face sex abuse charges

Image caption, Briege Meehan was married to the late north Belfast republican Martin Meehan

A former Sinn Fein councillor and widow of one of the most senior IRA leaders in Belfast is to be charged with cruelty and sexual offences.

Briege Meehan was suspended by the party after she was interviewed by police about allegations made by her stepdaughter Mary in February 2009.

Mary, the daughter of the late north Belfast republican Martin Meehan, claims to have been abused by Briege Meehan more than 30 years ago.

Briege Meehan denies any wrongdoing.

On Saturday, Mary Meehan spoke to the Irish News and criticised the length of time it was taking the Public Prosecution Service to decide whether to bring charges against her stepmother.

Patricia Coyle, solicitor of Harte Coyle Collins solicitors, acting on behalf of Mrs Meehan said her client would be strenuously defending the allegations.

"She remains entitled to the presumption of innocence and welcomes the trial process in order to demonstrate her innocence," she said.

"My client does not intend to engage in the 'trial by media' which has been conducted in this case to date. We will be advising our client on the impact of previous adverse press coverage which may now form the basis for future court applications.

"Mrs Meehan is confident that the public will respect both the trial process and her private family life."

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