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Judge me on next few months, says 'exhausted' Mairia Cahill

By Joanne Fleming

Published 16/11/2015

Newly elected Irish senator Mairia Cahill
Newly elected Irish senator Mairia Cahill

Newly elected Irish senator Mairia Cahill has spoken of how a online campaign against her and "sheer exhaustion" led to her to step back from two by-election debates in the run-up to Friday's vote in the Republic.

The Belfast woman, who comfortably won the Seanad by-election prompted by the retirement of Labour Party senator Jimmy Harte, said she was subjected to a "clearly orchestrated online campaign".

Ms Cahill's bid for the Seanad was hit by controversy after the west Belfast woman was forced to explain her connections with a dissident group known as Republican Network for Unity (RNU). However, she apologised for joining the group and said it happened at a vulnerable point in her life.

The young mother, who claims she was raped by an IRA man before the terror group covered up the abuse, will formally be sworn in as a Labour senator next week.

She said joining RNU was something she was not proud of, and listed it as one of "many things I wish I had done differently in my life after my abuse began".

Writing in the Sunday Independent, Ms Cahill said there were "many positive" aspects of her campaign, such as talking to Rape Crisis Centres about how she could help, but there were also negatives.

"Those negatives overshadowed the very important issues above, which I wanted to help with by giving them prominence during the campaign," she said.

"Instead, one issue in my past gained prominence in the final stages. Now, I want to look to the future, and be judged on my record in the next few months ahead, doing the best that I can in the Seanad.

"It's hard to keep me quiet most times, believe me, but a number of things happened in the last two weeks which were factors in my decision not to partake in two by-election debates, or in subsequent media interviews.

"Firstly, I became aware of a widespread campaign. A number of politicians told me they had been on the receiving end of pressure (a nice way of putting it) from various quarters.

"But the strong legal advice and from Labour was not to engage with this campaign. I took that advice.

"Another factor was the sheer exhaustion brought on by a recently diagnosed condition. I burned out, got a few days rest, and got back on board. I was also reluctant to give oxygen to what amounted to a clearly orchestrated online campaign."

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