Mairia Cahill: "Labour have been extremely good to me"

Ms Cahill has been nominated for the Seanad seat that has been vacant since Labour's Jimmy Harte resigned in late September

Mairia Cahill: "Labour have been extremely good to me"

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Mairia Cahill says her election to the Seanad is not a done deal.

The Labour party has nominated Ms Cahill to contest the Seanad by-election for the seat vacated by Jimmy Harte - who has suffered serious health issues.

Ms Cahill says she is happy to accept the nomination from Tánaiste Joan Burton and Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly.

The by-election is due to take place next month.

As it is a Labour vacancy, Fine Gael is expected to support her nomination.

Mairia, who waived her anonymity to campaign against sexual abuse, spoke to Colette Fitzpatrick this morning about her decision to join the Labour party and accept the Seanad nomination.

She started by saying she accepts that the party is down in the poll, but says for her the attraction is their stance on many social issues, and the support & goodwill she has received from Labour members:

Writing in today's Sunday Independent, Ms Cahill says she is accepting the nomination because, "no matter what happens with it, it is a powerful reminder to me that while life is never certain, it is possible to rebuild. I hope that other victims take hope from that, and rebuild theirs also. No one should have the right to hold power over your body or your mind.

"For me, it's another message to my abuser, and the IRA - and those who have attacked me daily on social media since then, that you may have tried to break me, but I am not broken," she added.

Ms Cahill rose to prominence a year ago when she raised allegations that the IRA had convened a so-called ‘kangaroo court’, at which she was forced to come face to face with a man she claims had raped her.

Earlier this year she was given a ‘Thirst For Justice’ award by the Labour Party.

In the absence of Mr Harte, who suffered serious head injuries in a fall two years ago, Fianna Fáil had conducted a pairing arrangement with the Government, whereby one of the party's senators would abstain 

However this was withdrawn following his resignation, putting further pressure on Government parties in the Seanad, who had already lost their voting majority following the scandal surrounding the candidacy of Donegal businessman John McNulty.

Minister Alan Kelly said, "I was honoured to present her with the James Larkin Thirst for Justice Award at the Labour Party conference in Killarney earlier this year. I have remained in contact with Mairia ever since, and am delighted that she has taken up my invitation to join our party and seek election to the Seanad".

An email sent from party leader Joan Burton to parliamentary party members and the party's central council can be read below in full:

I am contacting you to inform you that as Leader of the Labour Party, I am nominating - and Deputy Leader Alan Kelly is seconding - Mairia Cahill to be our candidate in the upcoming bye-election to Seanad Eireann.

I first met Mairia last October when we spoke for over an hour about the abuse she had experienced as a teenager at the hands of a leading member of the IRA. She told me about the crude investigation that took place, the fact that she had justice denied, and the pain she had experienced seeing her abuser live freely amongst her community 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.

At the time, I was taken with the bravery, honesty, and dignity of Mairia Cahill. I pledged that I and the Labour Party would support her in any way that we could. And I am proud that we have followed through on that commitment over the last year, including presenting her with the James Larkin Thirst for Justice Award at our party conference last February.

Mairia Cahill is an excellent candidate for Seanad Eireann. She has joined our party and is committed to supporting our work inside and outside the Oireachtas. She is a person of depth and broad experience. She is seeking to serve on the Industrial and Commercial Panel and is suitably qualified, having a background in youth employment, activation, and community enterprise.

As a party, we should be proud to have someone of such standing, courage, and ability joining our ranks.

I ask you to support her nomination as our candidate.

Joan Burton