“A force to be reckoned with” – Enda Kenny , Taoiseach, Ireland.
“Incredibly courageous” – First Minister Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland
At the age of 16, Mairia Cahill was subjected to a year long cycle of abuse by IRA man Martin Morris, and subsequently subjected to two illegal internal “investigations” by the IRA, during which, she was forced to face her abuser in a “Kangaroo Court”. Senior republicans, including the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, were aware of her abuse and the IRA investigation, yet a code of silence was imposed as they closed ranks and protected themselves.
In October 2014, Mairia waived her lifetime right to anonymity to tell BBCNI Spotlight reporter Jennifer O’Leary of her experiences, and susbequent collapse of court cases, shown in the RTS Award winning documentary produced by Chris Thornton, entitled; “A Woman Alone with the IRA”.
A tsunami of wall to wall media coverage followed. Mairia’s case was the subject of Parliamentary Debates, both in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and Dail Eireann.
Despite Sinn Fein denials of the cover up of sexual abuse, Mairia forced them into a position where they admitted that the IRA moved sex offenders around jurisdictions. She provided An Gardai Siochana (the Irish police service) with over 40 names of suspected abusers, and an investigation is currently ongoing.
Mairia was subject to intimidation and abuse from Sinn Fein Supporters, which she described when she accepted the Irish Labour Party’s prestigious James Larkin Thirst for Justice Award, presented to her in February 2015.
In March 2015, Mairia took part in another BBCNI Spotlight progamme, “Breaking the Silence”, when Louth man Paudie Mc Gahon also waived his right to anonymity to speak of his rape by an IRA man, and having to take part in an IRA Kangaroo Court, which was arranged by a Sinn Fein member.
In May 2015, Sir Keir Starmer produced a report for the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service, in which he found serious failings on how Mairia’s court cases were handled. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra Mc Grory offered both a personal and public apology to her stating “We let you down, and for that I am sorry”.
In October 2015, the Irish Labour Party declared Mairia as their candidate in the Seanad by-election. She subsequently won the election, with the highest number of political votes in a by-election in the history of the Irish state. She used her term as a Senator to raise issues of abuse and domestic violence, as well as conflict issues in Northern Ireland.
Mairia was awarded a special recognition award at the Irish Tatler Woman of the Year awards in November 2015.
In 2018 Mairia became a councillor for the SDLP in Lisburn/Castlereagh, working for constituents in the Killultagh ward.
In September 2018, The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland delivered his report on the police investigation into Mairia’s court cases. He found that she was failed by police as a victim of abuse, and that police had contemporaneous intelligence in 2000 that her abuser was abusing children, that the IRA were investigating it, and that Sinn Fein had suspended her abuser in August 2000, but that neither police or special branch acted. The report caused furore and led to an apology from the Chief Constable of the PSNI, and the third BBC Spotlight NI documentary on her case, ‘The Ombudsman Report.’. It also forced Sinn Fein to issue an apology – not to Mairia – but for not having mandatory reporting procedures in place. Mairia described Mary Lou Mc Donald’s apology as ‘woefully inadequate.’
Mairia continues with her campaign to ensure the lid is lifted on how the Republican Movement covered up sexual abuse, and occasionally writes for The Sunday Independent and The Belfast Telegraph.