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Senator Mairia Cahill's vow to abuse victims

Belfast woman says she will use her new role as Republic senator to fight their corner

By Brian Hutton

Published 14/11/2015

Newly-elected senator Mairia Cahill with Tánaiste Joan Burton and minister Alan Kelly outside the Dail yesterday
Newly-elected senator Mairia Cahill with Tánaiste Joan Burton and minister Alan Kelly outside the Dail yesterday

Mairia Cahill has said she will use her new position in the Irish Senate to work for all victims of sexual abuse.

The Belfast woman was voted into the upper house of Dublin's parliament, the Seanad, in a by-election caused by the resignation of a Labour senator after a serious accident.

Her trenchant criticism of Sinn Fein has brought her wide public prominence over the last year after claims of an IRA cover-up of her abuse resurfaced in a BBC Northern Ireland documentary.

"I want to use my time in the Seanad to continue to work for victims of abuse," she said after being elected on a Labour ticket with 122 of the 188 valid votes.

Only TDs (MPs) and senators were eligible to vote in the ballot.

Ms Cahill said she would invite sex abuse organisations to the Seanad at the earliest opportunity to discuss support for victims.

"That is the issue that has brought me to where I am today and it is the issue that I will continue to campaign on during my time as a Senator," she added.

"I also want to use my time in the Oireachtas to explore ways of engaging young jobseekers in this country and to help change their lives for the better."

Ms Cahill alleged she was raped by a suspected IRA member when she was a teenager in 1997.

She has further claimed the IRA conducted its own inquiry into her account, subjecting her to interrogation and forcing her to confront her alleged attacker.

The man she accused of rape was acquitted of criminal charges in court after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence and charges were also dropped against those allegedly involved in the IRA's internal inquiry. All of those charged strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Ms Cahill (34), a grand-niece of prominent republican Joe Cahill, waived her right to anonymity.

In the run-up to the Seanad election, she declined several media invitations to appear alongside other candidates to discuss the campaign.

Revelations of her involvement in a dissident republican organisation also resurfaced.

On the eve of the election result, Ms Cahill apologised for her role as national secretary for the anti-peace process Republican Network for Unity, which she said she only held for a few hours.

Tanaiste (deputy prime minister) and Labour leader Joan Burton said Ms Cahill's election was a proud day for her party.

"The Labour Party nominated Mairia Cahill for the Seanad because we believe that she has made, and can continue to make, a major contribution to Irish public life," she said.

"In the past she has shown immense courage and bravery to speak out about her own abuse and to continue to campaign for justice.

"She now has the opportunity to use her period in the Seanad to continue this work and also to draw on her background in youth employment, activism and community enterprise to affect positive change in the lives of jobseekers."

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