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Senate seat a vindication of Mairia's long campaign

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 14/11/2015

Mairia Cahill
Mairia Cahill

Even by the standards of the tangled world that is Irish politics, the journey of Mairia Cahill to the Irish Senate has been an astonishing one. It is also an inspiring tale of raw courage in the face of an insidious smear campaign.

She came to public prominence when she dropped her right to anonymity to accuse the IRA of attempting to cover up her rape - and sexual abuse which continued for a year - as a teenager by a member of the republican movement.

Given her own lineage as the grand niece of Joe Cahill, one of the founding members of the Provisional IRA, that was a remarkable step for her to take. She also revealed that she was forced by the republican movement to confront her alleged rapist at an IRA kangaroo court.

None of the claims were ever tested in court - cases against her alleged abuser and those said to have interrogated her were dropped - but Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he believed her story.

These were allegations which, following other cases of sexual abuse by republicans, including one involving Adams' brother, Liam and Liam's own daughter, caused enormous embarrassment to Sinn Fein.

Mairia, who admitted that she was once a member of a dissident republican group, Republican Network for Unity - a revelation she described as an attempt to smear her reputation - won widespread public and political admiration for her determination to expose how republicans handled claims of sexual abuse by members.

Her election to the Irish Senate by an overwhelming margin on the first count will be seen as a vindication of her campaign. It is a body which has a long tradition of electing people from the province - past members included writer Sam McAughtry and peace campaigners Gordon Wilson and John Robb - and today it has a new and doughty champion for those who have suffered rape and sexual abuse, the second most heinous crime on the statute books.

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