Last night a #ISupportMairia rally congregated at the front gates of Queen’s University Belfast.
The rally was formed to support Mairia Cahill and protest against the attendance of TD Mary Lou McDonald at an event (#SFLeadersTour) organised by QUB Sinn Féin, being held at the University.
Following a BBC Spotlight investigation, Sinn Féin have received criticism regarding allegations of an IRA cover-up of sexual abuse against Mairia Cahill.
The #SFLeadersTour event was billed as a ‘Public Meeting’ to discuss “the current national political and economic situation” across Ireland. Mary Lou McDonald was expected to make a speech, alongside Sinn Féin colleagues, Cllr Niall O’Donnghaile, and MLA Alex Maskey.
Rally participant and DUP member, David Brookes, told The Scoop, “I’m here to support Mairia Cahill and all of the other victims of abuse that have been subject to court by Sinn Féin, and by the IRA”. Mr Brookes continued, “Mary Lou McDonald is attending the University and she has been prominent in the Sinn Féin response to the allegations made against them…and I think that it’s disgraceful that they have covered this up for so long.”
SDLP MLA Alex Attwood was also in attendance at the rally. In an interview, he asserted that Sinn Féin should “acknowledge the truth of what the provisional movement did to (Mairia Cahill)”, and be held accountable like “all paramilitary groups.”
Not long after the protest began, news broke that Mary Lou McDonald would not be attending the event as she was voting against water charges in the Dáil. Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh / South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew, filled in for Ms McDonald.
During the #SFLeadersTour debate, numerous topics were discussed including the current Talks process, Welfare Reform, tuition fees, the QUB and Scottish Referenda, Votes at 16, Sinn Féin MPs’ absenteeism from Westminster, and the potential for a border poll.
Following the event, Michelle Gildernew told The Scoop that “it was good to hear what concerns people” and that she was “heartened to see young people interested in the future of the place that we live in”. In relation to the #ISupportMairia protest at the front of QUB, Ms Gildernew said “I regret the fact that people feel there needs to be a protest…because at the end of the day Mairia is a victim, and I have no doubt that she was abused, and I do believe that she needs support to heal…we need to support our victims and not use them as political fodder.”
Don’t forget to listen to The Scoop on Monday 24th November at 6pm on Queen’s Radio (www.queensradio.co.uk) for a full and detailed report #ISupportMairia rally and #SFLeadersTour discussion.
Until then, check out some of our interviews from the evening on AudioBoom: https://audioboom.com/QUBTheScoop
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