Máiría Cahill: ‘I don’t think anybody has ever seen any sexual abuse victim treated as viciously’

The former Irish senator speaks to The Women’s Podcast about her new memoir Rough Beast

Listen | 46:00

“I don’t think anybody has ever seen any sexual abuse victim treated as viciously… it was appalling,” says former Irish senator Máiría Cahill, who in 2014 went public with claims of sexual abuse at the hands of a prominent IRA member.

Cahill, who waived her anonymity nearly a decade ago, shared her story on a BBC Spotlight documentary. What followed was years of online abuse by “bots and republicans”, questioning her credibility. “I was abused mercilessly,” she says on the latest episode of The Irish Times Women’s Podcast.

Cahill, who grew up in west Belfast, a “republican stronghold”, was just 16 years old when the abuse started. “I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was an IRA member,” she says of the alleged abuser, who asked her to “move guns” just days before the first assault.

“It allowed me to think he had access to weaponry, it was certainly in the back of my head when the abuse started,” she says.


After confiding in three women, Cahill says members of the IRA summoned her for questioning about the abuse, later putting her face to face with her abuser to “see who was telling the truth”.

“I found that very, very damaging… he said ‘you’re wired up’ and ‘you’re a liar’, I’ll not use the language that he used” she says.

In her new memoir Rough Beast: My Story and The Reality of Sinn Féin, Cahill lays bare the devastating impact of the abuse and the trauma of the subsequent IRA ‘investigation’. She explains how her abuser, who was charged with rape and sexual assault, was acquitted when the case against him collapsed.

In this conversation with podcast presenter Kathy Sheridan, Cahill also explains why she is still waiting on an apology from Sinn Féin leader Mary-Lou McDonald, who in 2018 apologised “unreservedly” for the party’s handling of the sexual abuse complaint.

“As the figure head for the Republican movement now, in terms of Sinn Féin, she [Mary-Lou McDonald] owes me a hefty apology for the way in which her party treated me once I waived anonymity, I don’t think that was acceptable treatment of anybody, let alone a child sexual abuse victim,” she says.

“I think she also owes me an apology for her own treatment of me”.

You can listen back to the episode in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.