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I won't be gagged says Mairia Cahill as lawyers fire off a warning to festival over her lecture

By Deborah McAleese

Published 31/07/2015

Mairia Cahill
Mairia Cahill
Tim Attwood, who will chair talk

Mairia Cahill has insisted she will not be gagged after a legal firm warned West Belfast Festival organisers about the content of a lecture she is due to give about her abuse.

Ms Cahill is to deliver a talk as part of the Feile an Phobail tomorrow about her alleged rape and subsequent IRA cover-up.

But a letter from Madden and Finucane - the legal firm representing those accused by Ms Cahill - was sent to festival organisers saying they would hold Feile responsible for any defamatory or abusive remarks made in relation to their clients.

Ms Cahill, whose great-uncle Joe was one of the founders of the Provisional IRA, believes it was an attempt to censor or halt her talk, Justice for Victims of Abuse.

"This to me was a shot across the bows to get me to pull out, or get the Feile to buckle. Of course, solicitors are entitled to send letters on their clients' behalf, but I will not be gagged," said Ms Cahill.

Feile organisers and the SDLP's Tim Attwood, who is to chair the lecture, have agreed to back Ms Cahill and let her go ahead.

Last year, Ms Cahill publicly claimed a senior IRA figure in west Belfast raped her as a teenager and that his comrades tried to cover up the crime.

Three trials involving Ms Cahill and two others connected to her allegations collapsed after all three withdrew their evidence.

A review of how the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) handled the three cases linked to the alleged rape and IRA cover-up claims by Ms Cahill found they were "let down".

The PPS apologised to the women for "shortfalls" in the handling of their case.

Ms Cahill said she intends to use her lecture to "put out very direct questions to the republican community about specific people and pose questions that have not yet been answered."

Ever since Ms Cahill went public about her case she has been the target of a vicious hate campaign.

She said that she was offered security during her lecture, but refused.

"I do not think I should be curtailed. I would like to think it will be respectful. But I am conscious that in the body of the audience will be people hostile to me or close to the people that abused me," she said.

Ms Cahill added: "It's important to me to do this. I'm from west Belfast, my grandfather was a founding member of the Feile.

"This time of year is a very difficult time for me. My abuse started in the run-up to the festival in 1997. Where is the best place to speak, other than the belly of the beast? I think this will be the most important talk I have given to date."

The SDLP's Tim Attwood said there was no question of the event being cancelled.

"One of the purposes of the Mairia Cahill lecture is to "Speak Truth to Power." Mairia Cahill has done so and others do so. All should stand in solidarity with her and with them, not ask their solicitors to send letters on their behalf," Mr Attwood said.

He added: "One such letter was sent to Feile and the SDLP was advised of its contents. There had to be only one response. There was no question of the plug being pulled on the event. It is however, still to the credit of all, including Feile, the event proceeds as planned."

Mr Attwood said that "the truth can never be defamatory".

"Over the last months since Mairia Cahill has spoken, it is clear that some fear the truth and use various means to deny, bend or resist the truth," he added.

"The event on Saturday, the words of Mairia Cahill and the fortitude of those who have been abused are all ways to continue to Speak Truth to Power."

A spokesman for Feile an Phobail said the event will go ahead.

The Belfast Telegraph approached Madden and Finucane, but no response was provided.

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