Saturday 24 August 2019

Cahill abused online on a 'demonic basis', says Labour leader

Newly-elected Senator Mairia Cahill pictured with Tánaiste Joan Burton and Minister Alan Kelly outside the Dail this evening
Newly-elected Senator Mairia Cahill pictured with Tánaiste Joan Burton and Minister Alan Kelly outside the Dail this evening

Niall O'Connor and John Brennan

The country's newest senator, Mairia Cahill, has been subjected to online abuse "almost on a demonic basis", according to Joan Burton.

The Tánaiste hit out at the "keyboard warriors", whom she accused of waging an "unprecedented campaign of vilification" against Ms Cahill.

The Belfast woman was yesterday comfortably elected to the Seanad following a by-election prompted by the retirement of Labour senator Jimmy Harte.

Fianna Fáil candidate Dr Keith Swanick secured 38 votes, while Sinn Féin's Sinéad Burke got 18 and independent candidate Jerry Beades 10.

Ms Cahill (33), who was raped by a senior IRA figure before being subjected to a kangaroo court, will formally be sworn in as a Labour senator next week.

Speaking following the result, Ms Cahill said she intends to focus on the issue of youth unemployment. The young mother ruled out the prospect of running for the Dáil.


Ms Cahill's nomination to the Seanad had been hit by controversy earlier in the week after a number of TDs and senators raised questions over her links to a dissident group known as the Republican Network for Unity (RNU). The group opposes both the PSNI and the Good Friday Agreement.

The sister of murder victim Robert McCartney also criticised the nomination and questioned Labour's support for Ms Cahill.

On Thursday, Ms Cahill apologised for joining the RNU and said she did so at a vulnerable point in her life.

She said that late 2009, early 2010 was a "very difficult" period for her and she turned to the group, which was the "wrong thing to do" .

She had also found out at that time that she was pregnant and was struggling to cope.

Asked about the matter yesterday, the abuse survivor said she instead wanted to look to the future, adding that many politicians had also made mistakes.

"I think we have a lot of politicians up and down this country, and indeed a lot of people throughout this country, that wish they had have done things better with their lives and wish they hadn't made mistakes and that's fair enough," she told reporters.

Ms Cahill has been widely praised for her decision to speak out about her abuse at the hands of an alleged IRA figure.

Her decision to go public prompted another abuse victim, Louth man Paudie McGahon, to go public with his ordeal.

Ms Cahill has been subjected to a wave of abuse on social media since she rose to prominence last year.

The issue was raised again yesterday by Joan Burton, who urged Ms Cahill's online abusers to consider their actions.

"I think she is a person who has suffered the most incredible level of abuse, almost on a demonic basis, over the last period of time, and everybody who is involved in politics knows how difficult online abuse can be," Ms Burton said.

"Can I just say that that's been waged on her on a continuous basis does no service to political discussion and democracy in this country and the kind of online warriors who have carried out an unprecedented campaign of vilification, I think some of them should pause to consider the impact of that may be," she added.

Irish Independent

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