Belfast Telegraph

Mairia Cahill: Lack of IRA past will damage Mary Lou McDonald

By Noel McAdam

Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald will have to convince the party's 'Belfast Brigade' that her lack of an "army background" should not stop her taking over from Gerry Adams, it has been claimed.

Mairia Cahill said the Dublin TD's recent sit-in at the Dail alongside Mr Adams over water charges was a "stunt to deflect away from my sex abuse allegations".

West Belfast woman Ms Cahill, a member of one of the best-known republican families, has claimed she was raped as a teenager by a man she believes was in the IRA.

She also said the IRA forced her to confront her alleged rapist and then forced her into silence after she was sexually assaulted over a year-long period.

In an article she wrote for the Sunday Independent, Ms Cahill said that "whoever comes after Adams will have to be prepared to follow orders from the North".

She added: "The Belfast Brigade of Sinn Fein have a certain way of doing things.

"They are the people who decide what they want, and who they can use to get it."

Ms Cahill argued that Sinn Fein had "hit a plateau" in Northern Ireland but has not realised that "the South is a whole different ball game".

"What Southerners haven't taken notice of yet is that the party who is berating (the Irish) Government over water charges and cuts, is the very party helping to implement cuts in the North."

Yesterday, Ms Cahill said Mary Lou McDonald had emerged as a possible contender to replace Mr Adams.

She said she had warmed to Ms McDonald when she came into the party and had defended her more than once over her lack of "army background".

"But it is exactly this - that she doesn't have IRA credentials - which means that she will have to keep the old guard within the party onside if she has any credible chance of making it to the top."

Ms Cahill said Ms McDonald is already the "de facto" leader of the party in the Republic.

"Her Dail sit-in (over water charges), which many viewed as a stunt to deflect away from my sex abuse allegations and the wider issue, will have made the party transfer toxic to many, but endeared her to the hard left - and crucially the party's hard men in Belfast."

But she also said Ms McDonalds' tone and manner over the sex abuse issue has hardened "and time will tell whether she will come out personally unaffected."

There was no immediate Sinn Fein response to the newspaper article. Ms McDonald has previously said if "the IRA conducted an investigation into a matter of sexual abuse, that is clearly wrong.

"It's reprehensible, it is absolutely not the way to deal with complaints of offences of this nature."

Belfast woman Mairia Cahill told BBC's Spotlight she was raped by a suspected IRA man as a teenager, and that the Provisionals later helped to cover up the alleged attack. Five people who were prosecuted as a result of her claims were later acquitted of all charges, after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence. She has called for a cross-border investigation into republican sex abuse.

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