Sinn Féin leader wishes to ‘amplify’ apology to Máiría Cahill

Belfast woman said party’s recent concern about gender-based violence in contrast to her experience

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that she wishes to “amplify” her apology to Máiría Cahill, who was raped as a teenager by a senior IRA member.

Ms Cahill wrote critically in the Sunday Independent about Sinn Féin’s calls for action to tackle gender-based violence following the death of Ashling Murphy after an assault in Tullamore recently.

She said the party’s comments were in significant contrast to how her case was handled within the Republican movement.

“I met with her, I did apologise to her, I amplify that apology fully and sincerely,” Ms McDonald told RTÉ’s This Week. “The State and the administrations on this island have a duty and a legal duty to keep all of us safe, and all of those pathways are available to people.”

However, in a response to the interview posted on Twitter, Ms Cahill said Ms McDonald had “never apologised” for her party’s “treatment of me after I waived anonymity”. She went on to criticise how Ms McDonald handled a meeting between the two women which was organised to address the matter.

Ms Cahill said the apology referenced by Ms McDonald was not what she had called for in her article on Sunday.

Asked about reports that the family of Jean McConville are considering a civil case over the abduction and murder of their mother by the IRA, Ms McDonald said: “Every family has every right to exercise every option available to them in their pursuit of justice and truth and that’s the agreement we landed at in the Stormont House agreement”

“Sinn Féin is not the IRA… the war is over, the peace accord is decades old. And of course families across the island look still for the mechanisms, processes and opportunities to get justice and truth and I fully support that,” she added.

On the prospect of Michelle O’Neill taking up the position of first minister in the North after the Stormont elections this year, she said that the party would await the outcome of the vote.

However, she said that were Ms O’Neill to emerge as leader of the largest party in the power-sharing Executive “the first question is whether or not unionism will nominate to the position of deputy first minister, and we’ve heard very worrying responses from unionism on that score”.