Northern Ireland news

Máiría Cahill becomes SDLP councillor

Mairia Cahill is to be co-opted as an SDLP councillor

FORMER Labour senator Máiría Cahill is to be co-opted as an SDLP councillor.

Ms Cahill will serve as a councillor in Lisburn and Castlereagh.

She will replace former councillor Christine Robb who recently stepped down.

Eight years ago, Ms Cahill, a grand niece of Provisional IRA founder Joe Cahill, publicly said republicans covered up her alleged rape by an IRA member when she was a teenager in 1997.

She claimed the IRA conducted its own inquiry, subjected her to interrogation and forced 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 and charges were also dropped against those allegedly involved in the IRA's internal inquiry.

All of those charged strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Ms Cahill told the BBC she had worked closely with the SDLP in west Belfast on social issues.

"I don't think people will be shocked by this move," she said.

She said she was keen to build stronger community relations.

"I'm not going in as a nationalist councillor just to represent people from a nationalist tradition," she said.

"I do want to reach out and believe very strongly in reconciliation and respect, they are not buzz words you throw out at election."

Ms Cahill previously served as a Labour senator in the Republic for 12 months.

She was also briefly a member for Republican Network for Unity (RNU), which opposes both the PSNI and the Good Friday Agreement. She later apologised for joining the group and said she no longer considers herself a republican.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he was delighted by Ms Cahill's new role.

"Máiría 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 Máiría will play a prolific part in continuing to practice the politics others merely preach, by speaking truth to power."

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