Northern Ireland

Maíría Cahill makes bid for Seanad election

Maíría Cahill
Image caption Maíría Cahill claimed an IRA member raped her as a teenager and that the paramilitary group forced her to confront him in a kangaroo court-style investigation

Maíría Cahill, the Belfast woman who has accused the IRA of covering up claims that an IRA man raped her when she was 16, is to stand for election.

She has joined the Irish Labour Party and has been nominated by its leader as the party's candidate for election to the Irish Senate (Seanad Éireann).

Ms Cahill first went public with her claims on BBC Spotlight 12 months ago.

She said the IRA made her confront her alleged rapist before forcing her into silence to protect its own movement.

'Crude investigation'

Ms Cahill said she was subjected to a kangaroo court-style investigation as the IRA tried to work out whether or not she was telling the truth.

The man she accused of raping her was prosecuted but later acquitted of all charges against him following two separate court cases in 2014.

After the programme was broadcast, Ms Cahill took her campaign for justice to leading politicians on both sides of the Irish border.

The leader of the Irish Labour Party, Joan Burton, has now nominated Ms Cahill to be the party's candidate in an upcoming by-election to replace its County Donegal senator, Jimmy Harte.

In a email to Labour members of parliament, Ms Burton said: "I first met Maíría 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."

Justice award

Ms Cahill is from west Belfast and is a member of one of the Irish republican movement's best-known families.

Her great uncle, Joe Cahill, was one of the founders of the Provisional IRA and a long-time associate of Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams.

She attended the Irish Labour Party's annual conference in February, when she was presented with its James Larkin Thirst for Justice Award.

If elected, she would serve on the Industrial and Commercial Panel in Seanad Éireann.

Ms Burton said she was "suitably qualified, having a background in youth employment, activation, and community enterprise".

"As a party, we should be proud to have someone of such standing, courage and ability joining our ranks," the Labour leader added.

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