Máiría Cahill not contesting local elections over safety concern of publishing home address

Former Labour Senator and SDLP politician Máiría Cahill has said she will not be standing in the upcoming local government elections due to laws on publishing home addresses.

She was told that she will not be permitted to contest the elections as she does not want to make her home address public.

Legislation provides that in order to stand for election, the candidate must list their home address on the nomination form.

Ms Cahill has alleged that she was sexually abused by an alleged IRA member from 1997 to 1998 and that she has been subjected to harassment and intimidation in the past.

She has been an SDLP councillor for the Lisburn and Castlereagh City constituency since July 2018.

Speaking on The Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster this morning, Ms Cahill said there is a potential risk to her safety and that she has a restraining order protecting her from an individual.

"Because I am unable to do that, because it could potentially increase the risk to my safety as that address becomes publicly available to the electorate and is searchable, I am unable to run," she said.

"If I don't put my home address on the form, the Electoral Officer, under the legislation, would have no option but to disqualify me."

Ms Cahill said it would not be an issue if she was running for the local assembly election or a Westminister election as legislation had been changed to provide for such instances.

However, laws pertaining to local government elections have not be amended.

"We're now in a farcical situation where obviously I have campaigned on issues of safety in relation to females in particular and have been very vocal around that.

It's just ironic that due to this issue I have to now take the decision not to run as a candidate.

Ms Cahill said the safety of her and her daughter has to take precedence over a decision to publish her address.

She and her team were "gutted" that she would not be running a campaign, she said.

"I have tried very hard to try and represent everyone to the best of my ability and unfortunately due to someone else's behaviour, I cannot put my address on the form," she said.

"For me, that is scandalous."

She said it would also affect other people who would be prevented from running if they also fear for their safety.

"I really feel I am essentially being re-victimised for being a victim.

"I couldn't put into words how surprised I was by it, but also I am pretty disgusted by it too because I am assured at this point that because of this issue being raised, that the law will change in the future for other people.

"Unfortunately, it isn't going to change in time for for the deadline for handing in papers for myself."

Ms Cahill said that she will continue to try and help people, and did not confirm whether she would be stepping back from politics.

I really feel like I have to sack myself from a position that I had a fairly good chance of being elected to because of an issue that's outside of my control and that's very disappointing.

Responding to the news, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said it was "a disgrace" that Ms Cahill would not be able to seek re-election.

"This would be a shocking consequence of the law," he said on Twitter.

"It is a disgrace that a good sitting councillor like [Máiría Cahill] would have to pull out of seeking re-election because the [Northern Ireland Office] did not update the law to redact home addresses of people where concerns exist around their safety."

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