Former Irish Labour senator to become an SDLP councillor

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A former Irish Labour senator is set to become an SDLP councillor.

Mairia Cahill will be co-opted on to Lisburn and Castlereagh Council.

She said she intends to represent everyone “from all traditions and none, to the best of my ability”.

The west Belfast woman was plunged into the spotlight in 2010 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 in 1997.

She further claimed that the IRA conducted its own inquiry into her account, subjecting her to interrogation and forcing her to confront her alleged attacker.

The man she accused of rape was later acquitted of criminal charges in court after Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence. Charges were dropped against those allegedly involved in the IRA’s internal inquiry.

Ms Cahill, who comes who comes from a strongly republican family in west Belfast, said after speaking out she was subjected to “relentless abuse” by republican trolls on social media.

However, Ms Cahill said she would not be intimidated into silence by those trolls.

“If I lived my life being dictated to by trolls, I’d never get anything done,” she said.

“They haven’t gone away, but I will be concentrating on constituency issues and I hope that those people would do something productive for society also.”

In 2015, Ms Cahill joined Irish Labour and was elected to the Senate.

She told Press Association that she is very happy to take on her latest challenge as a councillor.

“I will continue to develop real and meaningful engagement with the Unionist community and I look forward to getting stuck into local issues in the Lisburn council area.”

Ms Cahill will replace former SDLP councillor Christine Robb who recently resigned from representing the Killultagh district electoral area for personal reasons.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he is confident that Ms Cahill will be an asset to the party.

“Mairia Cahill has an extremely strong record of speaking out against injustice, maltreatment and inequality; we are confident that her attributes are best placed to compliment the values and vision of the SDLP, and we are delighted she has decided to make the SDLP her political home,” he said.

“Politics is too often sadly missing brave voices to call out right from wrong.

“The SDLP has always taken uncomfortable steps to deliver a fair and just society, and I am confident Mairia will play a prolific part in continuing to practice the politics others merely preach, by speaking truth to power.”

Irish Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin congratulated Ms Cahill.

He said: “I have no doubt that she will be an invaluable representative to the people of Lisburn and Castlereagh in the Killultagh ward.

“Mairia has shown incredible bravery and courage in publicly calling out the republican movement for the abuses she suffered at their hands, and has continued to campaign for justice for other victims of abuse.

“As a Labour Party Senator, she was a strong advocate for those who have never been given a platform to raise and discuss their experiences.

“I am proud that she has retained her membership of the Labour Party and now goes on to represent our sister party in Northern Ireland, the SDLP.”

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