Máiría Cahill: 'I tried to document the damage that was done'

'It was only whenever I left west Belfast and went to live somewhere else that I realised there was a different way of living'
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

14.33 6 Oct 2023

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Máiría Cahill: 'I tried to doc...

Máiría Cahill: 'I tried to document the damage that was done'

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

14.33 6 Oct 2023

Share this article

Máiría Cahill said she has tried to document the damage that was done to her 'due to other people's decisions' in her new book.

The former Senator is a member of a prominent Republican family and told police she had been sexually abused by a prominent IRA member from 1997 to 1998.

In subsequent years. she was subjected to an IRA 'investigation' of her allegations.


Ms Cahill told The Pat Kenny Show her life path has been dictated by the decisions of others.

"I tried to document through the book the damage that was done, because other people took decisions - my alleged abuser - took a decision to abuse, the IRA took a decision to force themselves into my life," she said.

"That really dictated the path from then on and how I reacted to it.

"I found it very, very difficult in those initial years."

'Insular community'

Ms Cahill said west Belfast is quite a small place.

"You have all of these feeder housing estates off main arterial routes; and in each one of those estates, everybody knows each other.

"It's a very insular, self-sufficient community.

"There are a lot of positives around west Belfast, and I'm proud to come from there, but were also a lot of negatives.

"I did feel that kind of oppression without even realising it.

"I think it was only whenever I left west Belfast and went to live somewhere else that I realised that there was a different way of living."


Ms Cahill said the abuse began very quickly after she got new neighbours.

"I actually wasn't that close to him," she said.

"I certainly had a reluctance around him because I had seen him boot a younger cousin in the back a few years previously.

"He had moved in with my father's sister into the house next door... I then grew from tolerating him to probably liking him.

"I played guitar, he played guitar, there was a bit of craic to be had.

"Then he had this conversation with me to move guns for the IRA, that's where the fright then kicked in.

"I didn't move them, but within a few days of that conversation the abuse had started.

"It was a very, very quick thing that happened; they had literally just moved into that house I think a week or two previously."

'Embarrassed and frightened'

Ms Cahill said she pretended to be asleep as a coping mechanism.

"I was embarrassed but I was also frightened," she said.

"Even in my own head I didn't want to admit to myself that my abuser even knew what he was doing to me.

"That's the level that it was at.

"It was a split-second decesion that... I will probably always have a regret about that for the rest of my life.

"I remember even at times thinking if I let him know that I'm awake he might strangle me.

"I wasn't sure what exactly was going to happen, but I know that I made it much more difficult for myself by pretending to be asleep."

'There are people much worse off'

Ms Cahill said she hopes people can take one aspect away with them from the book.

"What I try to do with this book is to try and explain that everybody has the capacity to change, and also the paramilitaries are people too," she said.

"There are people in Northern Ireland - 3,500 victims - who are much worse off than I am, in the fact that they never came back.

"Their families are all nursing their hurt; and equally there are very many people who became involved in paramilitary activity on all sides, who are human beings at the end of the day.

"I already know what happened to me, so I have my own answers.

"There are other people who are seeking answers in relation to the death of their loved ones, and they will probably never get them from the Republican movement," she added.

'Rough Beast: My Story and the Reality of Sinn Fein', published by Head of Zeus, is out now

Listen back here:

Anyone affected by issues raised in this article can contact the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre 24-Hour National Helpline at 1800-77-8888

Main image: Mairia Cahill is pictured in Dublin city centre on February 13th 2016. Image: Sam Boal/

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Máiría Cahill Prominent IRA Member Republican Family Senator Sexual Abuse The Pat Kenny Show

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