A rally in support of Maria Cahill was held outside Queen’s University Belfast tonight.

The rally, attended by approximately forty people, many of whom were holding “I Stand With Maria” posters, was held to coincide with the visit of Sinn Féin vice president Mary Lou McDonald who was in QUB to address a gathering of Sinn Féin Youth members.

Sinn Féin has faced fierce criticism on both sides of the border after a Spotlight documentary in which Ms Cahill accused the IRA of covering up the fact that she was raped on a number of occasions over a twelve month period by one of its alleged members Martin Morris. Cahill also maintains that the IRA then interrogated her and forced her to confront her alleged rapist in order for the paramilitary to test the validity of her accusation. Mr Morris has denied all allegations against him and was acquitted in court, something which Cahill has put down to a failure on the part of the Public Prosecution Service. The PPS has since announced an independent review into the three cases around Cahill’s allegations.

Ms Cahill has also alleged that current Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams was aware of the rape and subsequent cover up. In the months following the spotlight documentary, the Sinn Féin leadership has been accused of being privy to and facilitating the cover up of sexual abuse. Some critics have likened Sinn Féin to the Catholic Church who have been criticised for moving priests accused of sexual abuse from one parish to another without reporting them to the proper authorities.

Cliona McCarney, chair of the SDLP youth, who was at the protest, told Off the Record that the rally was a “bipartisan group of young people who feel that the rape and subsequent cover up of the abuse that Maria Cahill faced is integral to the political situation in Ireland at the moment.”

She continued,

“We wanted to come here and show our support to Maria and other victims and to call for a more open and accountable justice system in our country.”

McCarney told this website that the issue goes far beyond Cahill and that wider questions have been raised by this particular case and that the people of Ireland deserve to know “if abusers were moved by the IRA, where they were moved to”.

Gerry Adams has accused Sinn Fein’s opponents of politicising Cahill’s allegations and using her as a political football in an attempt to attack his party. McCarney, however, disputes this.

“There are people here from all political persuasions and none…It’s an attack on Sinn Fein’s actions, it’s not being used as a political tool because it’s bigger than that. Maria’s story is one of incredible bravery and courage and we would never want to do a disservice to Maria by making this a political event.”

UPDATE

22:20 – The Gown has reported that Mary Lou McDonald was unable to attend the planned event and was replaced by Michelle Gildernew, MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone.

Jason Ashford | @jasonashford89