Mairia Cahaill to use rally against violence to demand more support for victims

Women marching in Belfast for the annual Reclaim the Night march, demanding safer streets and an end to gender-based violence and abuse. Photo: PA
Women marching in Belfast for the annual Reclaim the Night march, demanding safer streets and an end to gender-based violence and abuse. Photo: PA

Mairia Cahill is to call for more support for sex crime victims during court cases when she addresses a rally in Belfast.

Hundreds of women are expected to take part in the city centre march against gender-based violence.

Retired appeal court judge Sir John Gillen has made a range of preliminary recommendations about trials involving serious sexual wrongdoing following the acquittal of two Irish rugby internationals in a recent high-profile rape case.

Ms Cahill, in unrelated proceedings, has accused a senior IRA man of repeatedly sexually abusing her as a teenager. The suspect has always denied the allegations and was acquitted.

The campaigner and politician said: “I contributed to the Gillen Review and I will be calling for more support services for victims going through the court process.

“I was happy to contribute to it and would urge people to engage with the consultation review.”

Saturday’s march marks the beginning of 16 days of action addressing violence against women.

This is the fifth Reclaim the Night event to be held in Belfast.

The demonstration will begin at Buoy Park beside the Art College at 7pm and end at the Albert Clock.

Ms Cahill added: “I commend the organisers of this Reclaim the Night march, anything that raises awareness of abuse and supports people to help them report abuse is welcome.

One of the march organisers, Elaine Crory, said: “We are calling for an end to the constant targeting of women and members of the LGBT community.

“We want to remind people that these issues aren’t going away and that as well as every high-profile trial or sensational incident, harassment is an everyday reality for women and for LGBT people

“Over the last number of years I have consistently worked to try to improve things for sexual abuse victims, and some of the changes that have come as a result of my own case collapsing include the creation of the PSNI public protection branch and 15 changes to the Public Prosecution Service in relation to streamlining services for rape victims.”

Other speakers at Saturday’s event will include Laila Daya from Queen’s University African & Caribbean Society; Alexa Moore, director of Transgender NI; Catriona O’Brien from Sex Workers Alliance Ireland; and Rachel Watters, NUS-USI women’s officer.

One of the march organisers, Elaine Crory, said: “We are calling for an end to the constant targeting of women and members of the LGBT community.

“We want to remind people that these issues aren’t going away and that as well as every high-profile trial or sensational incident, harassment is an everyday reality for women and for LGBT people.

“While that continues to be true we will continue to march.”