Belfast Telegraph

Mairia Cahill's father protests outside Sinn Fein meeting at Queen's University

By Lindsay Fergus

The father of IRA rape victim Mairia Cahill has taken to the streets to protest just yards from a Sinn Fein public meeting.

As the republican party was canvassing support in Queen's University, Philip Cahill was one of 20 protesters who stood in dignified silence at the front gates of the landmark Belfast building.

Holding an 'I support Mairia' placard, Mr Cahill explained that he had turned up to back his daughter who was raped by an IRA member when she was 16 years old.

"I am here to support Mairia, she has articulated her story and her point of view really well and there's nothing I need to add except I fully support what she says, I was there, I know it to be true," he stated.

The nephew of Provisional IRA founder Joe Cahill said he had "very mixed emotions, obviously it's been a horrendous thing from the first time we found out about it" but he added that he was "very proud" of Mairia.

He said both Mairia and the family had been touched by the public support.

"I think that's the really nice thing despite all the abuse, the difficulties and the position that Sinn Fein has taken there is a lot of support from very decent people and that is really appreciated," he said. "It has been really tough on her.

"The support really keeps her going, she is really exhausted and she has been through a difficult time. As a family I would really like to say thanks to people for supporting her.

"I am here just as her dad supporting her and I just appreciate other people coming along doing the same thing."

As the 45-minute silent protest was taking place last night, Sinn Fein Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew was addressing an audience of less than 100 people in Queen's Lanyon Building.

Ms Gildernew - one of Sinn Fein's candidates in next year's Westminster elections - was parachuted in at the last minute to replace TD Mary Lou McDonald who got held up in the Dail.

There were security guards at both locations to ensure the events passed off without incident.

A few cars beeped their horns in support for the protesters and SDLP MLA Alex Attwood also turned up to back their campaign.

He said: "I think that it's the responsibility of everybody to show solidarity with Mairia Cahill and victims of abuse who are setting standards for Irish democracy in terms of their courage and fearlessness."

The former environment minister described Mairia as "a very formidable and fearless woman".

Commenting on Sinn Fein's handling of the Cahill case, Mr Attwood added: "It clearly is not being handled right by the Provisional movement. Mairia Cahill has said that she wants the Provisional movement to acknowledge what the IRA did to her and she wants the Provisional movement to say where these people who were expelled are now because they are still a risk to people.

"Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, Mary Lou McDonald have failed to acknowledge what was done to Mairia and acknowledge their responsibility to tell the authorities where these people are."

Background

Mairia Cahill is the grand-niece of Provisional IRA founder Joe Cahill. She was 16 when she was raped by a prominent member of the IRA. When she reported the abuse to the IRA she was subjected to interrogation. However, the case collapsed after Mairia withdrew her evidence in 2010. Last month the PPS announced that it is to review the case.

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