|Assumed office |
|Constituency||Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council|
November 2015 – April 2016
|Constituency||Industrial and Commercial Panel|
Belfast, Northern Ireland
|Political party||SDLP (since 2018)|
|Sinn Féin (1998–2001)|
Republican Network for Unity (early 2010)
Máiría Cahill ([ˈmˠaːɾʲiə]; born 1981) is an Irish politician. In October 2014, she waived anonymity as a complainant in a sexual abuse case to tell of her claims of being abused as a teenager by a Provisional IRA member and allegations of being subjected to an IRA internal investigation which forced her to confront her abuser. The documentary, A Woman Alone with the IRA, prompted a review of Public Prosecution Service conduct in three cases related to Cahill's allegations. In October 2015, the Labour Party announced Cahill had joined the party and she would be its candidate for election to Seanad Éireann. Cahill was elected as a Senator in November 2015 on the first count, with 122 first preferences out of 188 valid votes from Oireachtas members. In July 2018 she joined Northern Ireland's Social Democratic and Labour Party.
Early life and family
Cahill was born in 1981 in West Belfast into a prominent republican extended family. Her great-uncle Joe Cahill was one of the founders and chief of staff of the Provisional IRA in the 1970s. She is a cousin of both Siobhán O'Hanlon, a prominent republican activist in the IRA and later in Sinn Féin until her death in 2006, and her sister Eilis O'Hanlon, a political commentator for the Irish Independent and critic of both the IRA and Sinn Féin. Cahill has also claimed her grandfather recruited Gerry Adams into the IRA.
Cahill joined the Irish Labour Party in 2015 and was a senator from November 2015 to April 2016.
In January 2010 Cahill went public in a Sunday Tribune interview that, between 1997 and 1998, she had been raped by an IRA member. She was aged 16–17 during this period. In October–November 1999 the IRA held an internal inquiry into the matter and in March 2000 she was forced to attend a face-to-face confrontation with the IRA member. The "trial" was inconclusive. In July 2000 Cahill learned that two other women in her extended family had also accused the same man of abuse and that the IRA had also interviewed them.
Shortly after her interview with the Sunday Tribune Cahill reported her allegations to the PSNI, leading to three prosecutions brought against the alleged rapist and those alleged to have been involved in the IRA inquiry. All charges were eventually dropped and the accused rapist acquitted after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence in May 2014, citing her loss of confidence in the conduct of the prosecutions.
In October 2014, Cahill told of her objections to the IRA inquiry and loss of confidence in the prosecutions in the documentary, 'A Woman Alone with the IRA'. The documentary and public controversy prompted the Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory QC, to request a review of Public Prosecution Service's (PPS) conduct in the three cases related to Cahill's allegations. The programme has since won several awards for BBC NI Spotlight and reporter Jennifer O'Leary, including the Royal Television Society's Scoop of the Year, and an award from Amnesty International for excellent reporting in its Nations or Regions category.
The former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for England and Wales, Keir Starmer, was appointed to conduct a review of the Cahill cases. He found the Public Prosecution Service had failed all three victims. The Director of Public Prosecutions publicly apologised to Mairia Cahill in May 2015 citing 'I wish to make clear that no fault or blame attaches to Mairia Cahill. The Public Prosecution Service let you down, and for that I am sorry'.
Leaving Sinn Féin
Cahill quit Sinn Féin in 2001 when she moved to America. She later returned and worked on two election campaigns for the party before growing dissilusioned at her treatment and leaving for good.
Cahill was in 2010 a member (and National Secretary) of Republican Network for Unity (RNU), an anti-policing political pressure group. Cahill stated she joined while 'at a vulnerable period' of her life and argued against 'outside influences' while a member and left the group.
In February 2015, Cahill received a James Larkin Thirst for Justice award from the Irish Labour Party. In November 2015, she received a Special Recognition Award in The Irish Tatler's Woman of the Year Awards. Since becoming a public figure, Cahill has written as a political commentator for the Irish Independent and Belfast Telegraph, both part of the Independent News & Media group.
In October 2015, Labour Party leader Joan Burton announced Cahill had joined the party and she, along with her deputy Alan Kelly, would put her forward as the party's nominee in a by-election to Seanad Éireann's Industrial and Commercial Panel. The by-election had been occasioned by the resignation of Sen. Jimmy Harte due to illness. Cahill secured the party's nomination unopposed and won the election in November 2015 on the first count, with 122 first preferences out of 188 valid votes from Oireachtas members.
Cahill was criticised by Senator David Norris for failing to satisfactorily answer questions on her links to dissident republican groups and for failing to take part in media debates with other candidates.
Cahill and the Labour Party were also criticised by Catherine McCartney, sister of murder victim Robert McCartney, for her links with the dissident republican group the RNU.
In a March 2016 interview with Catherine Shanahan of the Irish Examiner, Kathleen Lynch, a former Labour party TD and Minister of state, stated she had no idea as to why Cahill was chosen as the party's by-election candidate.
Cahill did not contest the 2016 Seanad elections.
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- O'Connell, Hugh (21 March 2016). "'So obsessed with publicity': Outgoing Labour minister's parting shot at Leo". TheJournal.ie.