The west Belfast woman who accused the IRA of covering up claims she was raped aged 16 by one of their members, has said republicans may “worry” if her election to the Irish Senate is successful.
Mairia Cahill, who has joined the Irish Labour Party, has been nominated by its leader Joan Burton as the party’s candidate for election to the Seanad Eireann.
News that Ms Cahill is to be the party’s candidate in an upcoming by-election to replace its Co Donegal senator, Jimmy Harte, was made public at the weekend.
Ms Cahill will go before the Labour Party parliamentary party and Central Council on Wednesday for ratification.
Ms Burton told Labour members of parliament in an email that she “first met Mairia last October when we spoke for over an hour about the abuse she had experienced as a teenager at the hands of a leading member of the IRA”.
“She told me about the crude investigation that took place, the fact that she had justice denied, and the pain she had experienced seeing her abuser live freely amongst her community in Belfast.
“She told me of the courage it took to go public and of her determination to continually campaign for people who had suffered abuse.”
The man accused of sexually abusing Mairia Cahill was acquitted of all charges.
Ms Cahill, speaking to the News Letter, said she did not know if any other candidates were going to be put forward by other political parties for the by-election.
“I have no issue if they do or not as that is politics and democracy,” she said.
“The by-election is on November 13. And if Enda Kenny calls an early election things could get interesting but we will wait and see.”
The mother-of-one said she understood, that if she was elected, the fact she would have the “right to speak under privilege” may “worry Sinn Fein a bit”.
“However, I respect the process of the Seanad and anything that I would be saying are within the rules and regulations of that and I suppose nobody really can predict what will happen in the future.”
When asked if she ever considered standing for election in Northern Ireland Ms Cahill said: “No, is the short answer.”
She said she was approached in the past by people asking if she would stand as an independent, “but I didn’t want to turn the whole election campaign into a complete circus”.
“The Seanad is slightly different in that you are going in as an appointee into a by-election which is slightly different and I didn’t want the issues caught up to be a Mairia Cahill vs Sinn Fein contest.
“Although I did consider maybe standing against Mary-Lou [McDonald] in Dublin as an independent candidate and I think I would have had a chance of taking a good amount of votes from her, but I decided really that is not what I am about.
“So at the minute the Seanad is the better platform for me to raise those issues instead of it becoming a whole political football.”
Ms Cahill – whose great-uncle Joe Cahill was one of the founders of the IRA – if elected would serve on the industrial and commercial panel in Seanad Eireann.
She said that, if elected, she hoped to also highlight social justice issues adding that the Seanad appointment requires “business experience or what I have in community enterprise experience”.
But, she said, if appointed she would like “to be able to do them both and introduce a private member’s bill at any stage”.
“Certainly the first thing I am going to do, if I get in, is to bring down Rape Crisis and see what we can do with our heads together.”
Ms Cahill attended the Irish Labour Party’s annual conference in February, when she was presented with its James Larkin Thirst for Justice Award.