'One issue I wish to make clear at the very outset is that no blame in relation to the collapse of these cases attaches to Mairia Cahill or the other two victims. The Public Prosecution Service let you down, and for that I wish to say sorry."
That is what I needed to hear from the North's Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory in relation to the Starmer review on Friday - not necessarily for me, because I agree with him, but for my family, and particularly my four-year-old daughter. She is too young to understand now, but, as she grows, due to the public nature of my case, she will learn of my experiences, and of what ultimately happened when I tried to hold my abuser, and other republicans, accountable for the trauma that they put me through.
And when she does discover, I want her to know that her mammy did the right thing. That no one worked harder than me to try and ensure my court cases were the strongest they could be. That I felt like I was fighting my own case at times over those long four years. And that I told the truth.
I was pregnant when I made my police complaint. The court cases in which I was a victim spanned the first four years of my daughter's life. No victim should ever have to wait that length of time on a trial. I welcome the fact this report will mean that it is likely no other abuse victim will have to again.
Solicitor for four of the IRA accused, Peter Madden, stated in the Irish Times on November 17, 2014, "She would have been questioned…in court, but of course we didn't get there because Mairia Cahill didn't want us to get there…" I want my child and everyone else to know that Mr Madden was wrong, and that I very much wanted to see his clients prosecuted successfully. I also wanted more than anything, even though I am still petrified of him, to face my abuser in a court, and not being able to do so was one of the lowest points of my life. The guilt that I felt about the fact that he was not prosecuted to conclusion is the same guilt that I felt when I discovered I wasn't his only victim. But, as Sir Keir Starmer told me on Friday morning, I have been vindicated, and it was not my fault.
I was not to blame.
It is seven months since I waived my anonymity on the BBC Spotlight programme, and had it not been for that programme, a high-profile review would never have been commissioned. Sir Keir Starmer is an internationally renowned human rights lawyer and a former Director of Public Prosecutions himself. He forensically examined the processes and sifted through voluminous amounts of evidence, conducted many interviews, and produced a thorough report. Most right- thinking people have accepted his findings, with the exception of the usual internet conspiracy theorist brigade. Even Sinn Fein accepted the report, although they stopped short of taking responsibility for the part some of their members had to play.
Much has been made of my withdrawal from the cases, as if this is a relatively new phenomenon for victims of abuse to withdraw from the process. Most rape cases do not make it to court for a variety of reasons - mostly because of the huge stress and pressure it creates for victims of abuse. Sinn Fein has repeatedly pointed to "not guilty" verdicts in an effort to portray an open- and-shut case, and with a view to calling into question my credibility. The Starmer review clearly shows that this was not the case. The report states that the prosecution team had assessed me as a "credible and reliable witness".
I have consistently given my account of what happened to me in a very public way. And everyone can see, with the exception of a few die-hard Sinn Fein internet trolls, that I was telling the truth. Most people can see that the only credibility issue to date has been with the Sinn Fein party, and with their inconsistent positions and changes as they sought repeatedly to twist themselves off the hook and hoodwink the general public.
That is what is upsetting about all of this for me, and why this report was so important. It is horrendous to be abused, and the effects of that abuse live with me to this day. The four years of the court cases were traumatic and had a significant impact on my physical health. Seven months of cruel and hurtful repeated attacks on me since have left me extremely distressed.
It took a huge amount of personal resolve to waive my anonymity to expose what happened to me. Friday's report brings some comfort in the face of what has seemed at times like an endless barrage of abuse. I felt like I was being publicly raped all over again, and I have relied heavily on the support of a few close friends to keep me on track. I hold Sinn Fein responsible for that. They created the conditions for people to attack me the moment they tried to deny what happened to me, and, I hope that in moments of quiet reflection, the reality of that sinks in. They legitimised the raising of the 'not guilty' verdicts in an effort to damage me and in doing so, facilitated the re-abuse of a sexual abuse victim.
I will probably never be able to find the right words to express the pain that I feel about the fact that justice was denied to me. That the man, though his actions in taking my body were despicable, and who to this day intrudes unwanted into my mind, is a free man and will never be held accountable. That those so-called republicans who forced themselves into my life and who caused untold trauma, the "decent people" who Gerry Adams referred to in the Dail, never took responsibility for their actions, and probably never will. That the man who leads Sinn Fein, and who in my opinion is a coward, had not got the gumption to admit that I was telling the truth, and caused me great hurt as a result. The worst experience of my life was being sexually abused. I felt like a tossed about ragdoll.
For the last seven months I have felt that certain members of Sinn Fein have repeatedly kicked me about like a football. Gerry Adams issued a public statement on the Starmer review on Friday evening. He could not even bring himself to use my name, and that, to me, speaks volumes about exactly how much regard he has for me as a human being, and as a victim of abuse. He, through this omission, has dehumanised me. My name is Mairia Cahill, Gerry Adams - I was silenced from using it and telling my experiences for long enough. I am not going to allow you to strip me of my identity on top of everything else I have been put through by you and your party.
I hope that the Starmer report will ensure that no other abuse victim has to go through what I did, but I welcome the mature way in which the Director has dealt with the criticism of the PPS. Barra McGrory had the good grace to take responsibility for his organisation, admit its failings and has apologised to me publicly. It is now time for you, Gerry Adams to do the same.