Labour nominee Maíria Cahill wins Seanad byelection

Cahill takes seat vacated by Jimmy Harte, said she had ‘dealt with the issues in my past’

Maíria Cahill has come under pressure in recent days to detail her involvement with the RNU in 2009 and 2010. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Maíria Cahill has come under pressure in recent days to detail her involvement with the RNU in 2009 and 2010. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Newly elected Labour Party senator Maíria Cahill has asked people to judge her on her record in the Upper House instead of basing their views on allegations about her past.

Speaking on Friday, Ms Cahill said she had been the focus of an online campaign in recent days and weeks.

Jerry Beades, a failed Independent candidate in the byelection that saw Ms Cahill take a seat in the Seanad on Friday, claimed she still had questions to ask about her past and links to dissident republicans.

On the issue of only declining to answer questions about such links until she gave a broadcast interview on Thursday, Ms Cahill said she had “dealt with the issues in my past”.

“I have asked the people judge me on my record in the future,” she added.

In an interview on RTÉ radio, she described her membership of the dissident group Republican Network for Unity (RNU) as a mistake.

Ms Cahill came under pressure in the final days of the by-election campaign to detail her involvement with the RNU in 2009 and 2010. She confirmed on RTÉ she was national secretary for the dissident group, but resigned within hours.

“I did do a lengthy interview yesterday and I have spoken about issues and my past in the past year as well,” Ms Cahill said on Friday.

“From my point of view, there were other considerations as well, serious legal considerations as well, to take into account and I took my solicitor’s advice on it and I am happy to have dealt with it yesterday.

“I would ask that people judge me on my record in the Seanad because I would hope to be an empowering voice to all of the victims of abuse out there, no matter who the perpetrator is.”

She also criticised a campaign against her which she claimed was “orchestrated on social media recently” and said she had not yet given thought to whether she will stand again for the Seanad at future elections.

Tánaiste Burton said the internet campaign by “online warriors” does “no service to political discussion and democracy in this country”.

One of those who called for Ms Cahill to address her past was Catherine McCartney, a sister of IRA murder victim Robert McCartney. Ms Cahill said she could not go into detail on what Ms McCartney had said because of “ongoing legal issues”.

Ms Cahill won the Seanad byelection, taking 122 first preferences votes out of a valid poll of 188 votes.

Ms Cahill was a Labour nominee and she took the seat vacated by Labour Senator Jimmy Harte.

It was contested by Fianna Fáil candidate Dr Keith Swanick, Mr Beades and Sinn Féin’s Sinead Burke.