Belfast Telegraph

Mairia Cahill is to run for Irish Senate

By Noel McAdam

Mairia Cahill has told of her "agonising decision" to attempt to enter politics as a member of the Irish Senate - and insisted: "I will not be a stooge."

But the 34-year-old Belfast woman, who was raped as a child by a leading IRA man, said she thought long and hard before accepting the Irish Labour Party's nomination to take a safe seat in Dublin's upper house.

Labour leader Joan Burton said she nominated Ms Cahill because she had been "incredibly taken" by her bravery, honesty and dignity.

Ms Cahill insisted she did not intend to use the right of privilege as a Senate member to put more information about her experience into the public domain.

"I will not hide behind privilege," she said.

"I will respect the use of privilege, and the institution." Ms Cahill also rejected concerns that she could be used as a "stooge" by the Labour Party to attack Sinn Fein.

"I am my own woman. Labour are well aware of my position," she said."I see my role as a victims' champion."

She said her first aim would be to hold an event to raise awareness of rape and domestic violence for both victims and perpetrators - perhaps in the run-up to Christmas - and then encourage the rape crisis networks north and south of the border to work together.

Ms Cahill told the Belfast Telegraph yesterday: "It was really a very agonising decision for me over the last couple of weeks. I almost turned it down. My first consideration was my daughter; would I be able to manage this, going up and down to Dublin and so on? And then again, if there is an election called in the near future, it could all be very shortlived."

She looks likely to succeed, being nominated to replace Donegal Labour Senator Jimmy Harte, with Fine Gael not expected to put forward a candidate. The nomination, supported by Labour minister Alan Kelly, has to be ratified by a meeting of the party on Wednesday.

If accepted by the party, she will then contest the by-election, which has to be held before November 13. It is now almost exactly a year since Ms Cahill went public on BBC NI's Spotlight programme, claiming the IRA made her confront her rapist before forcing her into silence.

She would follow other NI Senate members, including Enniskillen bomb victim Gordon Wilson and writer Sam McAughtry.

Belfast Telegraph


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