Saturday 24 August 2019

Máiría Cahill withdraws from local elections over safety fears

Maria Cahill
Maria Cahill
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

IRA abuse victim and SDLP councillor Máiría Cahill has withdrawn from the upcoming local elections in Northern Ireland due to a rule which stipulates she would have to make her address public.

In a statement Ms Cahill – who came to prominence after she waived her right to anonymity to speak out in a newspaper interview, making allegations she had been raped by a suspected IRA member when she was a teenager  – said she is withdrawing from the race reluctantly.

Ms Cahill said there are various legal order in place to prohibit behaviour towards her which puts her at risk.

“I live with protective measures in my house for that very reason and very rarely tell people where I live to minimise that risk,” she said.

Due to electoral rules for local elections Ms Cahill said she would have to make her address known in order to run which she said would put her and her young daughter at “severe risk”. 

She said the rules will be changed in future, branding the situation that has emerged for her a “fiasco”.

She was co-opted onto the Lisburn and Castlereagh Council as an SDLP councillor ten months ago and was mid-campaign to be elected in the upcoming elections until withdrawing.

“I have worked hard as a councillor for the last 10 months, and it is ironic that a strong advocate for keeping women safe is effectively barred from running for public office due to very real concerns about her safety,” she said.

Ms Cahill said she hopes she has lived up to her promises as a local councillor reaching out to across communities and raising awareness about sexual abuse and domestic violence.

In a statement an SDLP spokesperson said the withdrawal of Ms Cahill due to fears for her safety was a matter of "profound regret".

“Both the SDLP and Cllr Máiría Cahill have been in close communication with the Electoral Office and the Chief Electoral Officer over the past number of days regarding the requirement for a candidate to publish their home address on nomination papers which are publicly accessible," they said.

“We have made the case that for Ms Cahill to publish the address of her and her daughter is such that it would pose an unacceptable risk to their safety and that some exception should be made in the way it is possible for Assembly and Westminster candidates to protect their home addresses.

“It is a matter of profound regret that, to date, we have been unable to resolve this problem. We are unwilling to put Máiría or her family at risk."

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