Ballymurphy Rape

the man who raped me, was nearly 40 and a prominent west Belfast IRA member ... I was frightened because of his position in the IRA and I didn't want to cause pain to my family. When I didn't speak out the first time, it set a pattern which I now deeply regret, but I was only 16 then – Ms Cahill.

It made for harrowing reading. A young woman from West Belfast narrated to the Sunday Tribune her account of the persistent sexual violence she was subjected to by a serial rapist who was also a member of the Provisional IRA and a former republican prisoner in West Belfast’s Ballymurphy. While his membership of the IRA did not prompt him to rape, it did, however, effectively allow him to get away with it.

For long enough I thought I was the republican facing the most problems in Ballymurphy for having the temerity to suggest that Sinn Fein would end up just about where they are now. On my side I had the benefit of experience and was prepared to mix it with my detractors in public. I could always draw public attention to my situation. Here was a teenage girl whose torment went on in the shadows; who because of the anonymous pressure of the group coupled with a sense of loyalty to the movement which her family had given so much to, was forced to undergo much more than I ever had to put up with. Unlike me she felt unable to speak out. A teenager being repeatedly raped by a prominent local IRA member and she had to suffer in silence, alone, in order to maintain the pretence demanded by ‘the Movement’ that it was without blemish. There was nothing in my experience that comes close to the pain and misery that this young woman was put through. Her attacker would later go on to sexually assault two relatives of the raped woman, one aged 17 the other 14. Like fellow rapist, Liam Adams, he was shunted off to Donegal.

What makes this crime all the worse is that the rapist was a member of Community Restorative Justice. Although it can’t be held culpable for his behaviour, people were encouraged to go to that body rather than the RUC. Yet here we had one of its key officials showing that he could inflict more harm and injustice on this young republican than the RUC ever would. The raped woman’s great uncle, Joe Cahill, who served as the second Provisional IRA chief of staff, recognised this much when he asserted she should have gone to the RUC about her experience.

Ms Cahill is all we can refer to her as out of respect for her wishes not to have her first name put out in the public sphere. She was a member of Ogra Sinn Fein at the time she underwent these horrendous acts of sexual violence. Despite her experience she remained in Sinn Fein and carried out a number of party functions. That took tremendous courage for which she deserves admiration. This young woman, on occasion reduced to tears by the nonchalant response of members of ‘the Movement’ to her plight, faced greater challenges in her bid to remain a member than they ever did. Carrying on against British state repression may be one thing but to carry on when those supposed to be your comrades and colleagues were the oppressors took some doing.

It also took equal amounts of real courage - not the ‘imaginative’ phoney courage we often hear mentioned in association with the endless summersaults of the peace process – to emerge into the public spotlight and tell her story. It is no easy task to stand in the national press speaking to the best investigative journalist in the country, Suzanne Breen, and bare it all. It took her five hours because of the emotional trauma involved.

The attacks on Ms Cahill are not the only allegation of rape to have been made against a member of the Ballymurphy IRA in which the survivor claimed there was a cover up or a fobbing off. Others have complained of having been violently sexually assaulted only to be given the run around when they raised their complaint to Sinn Fein.

It is brave talented people like Ms Cahill that a once principled movement has lost because ‘a few powerful individuals put the preservation of the movement and their own position above the safety of children’.


  1. Certainly journalists like yourself and Suzanne have done much against many to uncover abuses of all sorts. We appreciate as ever your efforts. The cover-up culture runs very deep.

  2. The constructs and contexts of abuse... The victim is given reinforcement via the negation of appropriate action (when informing those who should take appropriate action) it is somehow their fault. There be the pus of the Vatican and constructs of Catholicism that has razed thousands and thousands of Irish lives - endemic & pandemic. Now the hallowed halls of republicanism have their own seething morass of horror re abuse... It is like Mother Ireland has split open wide spilling out all the dumbed down pus of child abuse. I salute all who stand up and speak out! If it shatters our revering of some figureheads of resistance so be it. How can the wound heal if the pus does not manifest. How can the next generation of children be assured of safety if it don't happen this way. Pus is flowing and bubbling and this time Ireland you WILL listen.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with Fionnchu, until I saw your blog in relation to the Massereen shooting I hadn't opened a paper or watched the news in over a decade. This has given me an interest in my country and it's politics again for the first in a long time. GREAT reading this blog and I've an Irish news beside me to read in depth when I get home. That's two papers I've bought in a row..WOW
    I'm hoping the outpouring of all this stuff will release the grip of the SF leadership and it's Nazi like hijacking and selling of 800yrs of Irish History. I for one will be getting involved in local politics again, but living [THROUGH CHOICE..not SF exile]in Donegal, I'll veer towards FF. Possibly SF should have dumped arms in 1994/6 and allowed the SDLP to get on with the constitutional route..what was it that was said..?"give up all that is fair and walk the thorny road of history" hang your heads I say. Horses for courses ring any bells?
    I for my part will be a constitutional activist but not with the 'naked kings'
    Good man Mackers, your blog was a godsend.

  4. courage is the word alright.... will there not be an uprising in ballymurphy and west belfast in general against the adams faction, these bastards should be punished, and yet they walk among our people preaching to us about morality.
    i await the phoenix.

  5. hi anthony is this IRA guy still Alive?

  6. Tony, yes he is still alive. I have not heard of him in a long time.

  7. Courage indeed is required. We require some journalist or blogger who has the information (and I am sure there must be many) to find the courage to publish the identity of Ms Cahill's offender, for only then can they, with full integrity, condemn the culture of secrecy that allowed him to act as he did with impunity.

    Of course there are risks, but what meaninful course of action does not involve risk and what really can he do? Shoot the messenger? Unlikely. Sue for libel then? A possibility of course but I think he might be deterred by the example of Oscar Wilde who, oh so rashly, sued the Marquis of Queensbury for libel, lost and then, as a result of revelations made during the course of that trial found himself in the dock on criminal charges.

    To hell with bourgeois jurisprudence, let's have some real community restorative action here, let's name and shame.

    But only for a start.

  8. And now Ms Maíria Cahill is getting some sort of Justice finally! Shame on Governments involved also.