Belfast Telegraph

General Election: IRA abuse victim Mairia Cahill calls on electorate to 'examine conscience' and reject Sinn Fein

Calls for tactical voting 'hurtful' says ex-SDLP councillor Mairia Cahill

Mairia Cahill (Liam McBurney/PA)
Mairia Cahill (Liam McBurney/PA)
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

A former SDLP councillor and IRA sex abuse victim said she was hurt by calls for tactical voting by those that had offered her support and which could return Sinn Fein MPs - particularly in North Belfast.

Mairia Cahill called on the electorate to reject Sinn Fein and back candidates in the General Election that will take their seats in Westminster.

She said her case had been raised in Westminster with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State by North Belfast candidate Nigel Dodds.

"Had North Belfast elected a Sinn Fein MP, it wouldn't have been raised at all," she said in a Facebook post.

Ms Cahill said the electorate should "vote wisely" and return a politician who will not leave the constituency "voiceless". She said she was also supported by Alliance in her case - the only other party running in North Belfast.

"I don't have the resources to post this through every home in NI, but if I did I would," she said.

The SDLP stood aside in North Belfast, it said, in order to maximise the pro-remain vote. It is the first time in its history it will not be putting forward a candidate in the area.

Explaining the move Leader Colum Eastwood has said it would be better to have Sinn Fein candidate John Finucane "sit in the house" rather than have Nigel Dodds returned to the Commons. The party denied it was part of a pact, however, Sinn Fein stood aside in South Belfast and endorsed Claire Hanna for the DUP-held seat.

Mairia Cahill told the Belfast Telegraph it was "hurtful" to see those that had supported her case call for tactical voting which could return a Sinn Fein MP, particularly in North Belfast.

"I hope [the electorate] search their conscience before they [vote], particularly in North Belfast," said Ms Cahill.

" The SDLP took away that choice and if their supporters go in the direction of Alliance at least they will take their seat."

She urged the public not to "turn a blind eye" to the Sinn Fein's record on abuse and "send a message to the Sinn Fein leadership that you stand with victims, by not voting for Sinn Fein candidates".

She added: "People make the abstentionist argument but for me it does not make sense to have an MP who does not take their seat.

"North Belfast has high suicide rates, high depression rates, is lacking inward investment and most of the work is left to the voluntary and charity sectors to pick up.

"And to have an MP not go to Westminster to legislate is not the answer."

A great-niece of prominent Belfast republican Joe Cahill, Ms Cahill claimed she was sexually abused as a 16-year-old by senior republican and alleged IRA member Martin Morris.

Mr Morris, who denied all wrongdoing, was later acquitted of rape when the case against him collapsed. Ms Cahill had alleged the republican movement's response to her claims was to subject her to an IRA interrogation and have her confronted by her alleged abuser.

"This election is important," added Ms Cahill.

"You have the power to choose a representative who will legislate on matters of health, housing, education, business, investment and a range of other issues which will effect your life.

"Or you can choose someone who won't turn up - leaving your area with no voice and no representation."

Ms Cahill waived her right to anonymity in 2014 in a BBC Spotlight programme. Later a Police Ombudsman report revealed Sinn Fein members "did not cooperate" fully with police in their investigation. It also found Sinn Fein members were not suspended by the party for three years

At the time the then Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said he had cooperated with the police investigation. Mary Lou McDonald has also insisted the party had cooperated. She has said she held “no regrets” over the party response to the matter. The party has also called on anyone with information to contact police.

“I exposed the IRA’s shameful treatment of child sexual abuse. I also exposed the Sinn Fein party and their wholly inadequate response to me,” added Ms Cahill.

“Sinn Fein have yet to be be fully transparent on this issue.

“Use your vote wisely. Don’t vote for a party who will leave you voiceless. You deserve better than that. We all do.”

Sinn Fein, in a statement, said it has ensured the voice of the people "has been heard where it counts".

"We have used our influence in Dublin, Brussels and Washington to make it clear that the DUP and their Brexit agenda do not speak for the north," it added.

"We will continue to give a voice to everyone in the community."

The SDLP was also approached for comment.

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