Labour chooses Mairia Cahill for Seanad seat
Mairia Cahill, the Belfast woman who was raped as a child by a top IRA man, has been nominated to contest a Seanad by-election by Labour leader Joan Burton.
Ms Cahill, who has campaigned against the alleged cover-up of the attack, will go before the Labour Party parliamentary party and Central Council on Wednesday for ratification.
Ms Burton yesterday said she had been "incredibly taken with Mairia's bravery, honesty and dignity since first meeting her last year, when she told me of the abuse she had suffered as a teenager at the hands of a leading member of the IRA".
The Seanad vacancy, which was created by the resig- nation of Senator Jimmy Harte following a lengthy convalescence for injuries received in a fall, will be filled by an electorate of all TDs and senators who must vote by 11 am on November 13. Nominations close on October 15.
Ms Cahill's nomination was seconded by Labour deputy leader Alan Kelly, who first approached her to stand.
As this is a Labour Party vacancy, Fine Gael is not expected to put forward a candidate, which ensures the election of Labour's nominee.
Ms Cahill said yesterday that while she was honoured to accept the Labour party nomination, she was also "deeply grateful for the support I have received from people in the last year across the political spectrum north and south - to Micheal Martin, Niall Collins, Enda Kenny, Frances Fitzgerald and Regina Doherty in particular".
She said she would continue to work with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and others who have been supportive to highlight the situation that victims of IRA cover-up of abuse have found themselves in.
"I know I can continue to receive their support on this issue," she said.
Ms Burton said that when she met Ms Cahill "she told me about the crude IRA investigation that took place, the fact that justice had been denied to her and the pain she had experienced seeing her abuser live freely 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," said Ms Burton.
"At the time, I pledged that I and the Labour Party would support her in any way we could.
"Mairia hugely impressed members when she spoke at our annual conference.
"And when the hugely admired Jimmy Harte retired from the Seanad, I realised Mairia would be an excellent candidate to replace him.
"Mairia is a powerful advocate for abuse victims and refuses to be silenced even when vicious campaigns are mounted against her.
"She is a passionate campaigner on social justice issues and women's rights. She has a background in youth employment, activation and community enterprise. We are nominating Mairia for the Seanad because we believe she would be an excellent senator."