Commission settles Mairia Cahill case against Government

Commission settles Mairia Cahill case against Government

Commission settles Cahill case against Government. Picture: Cate McCurry/PA

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) has settled a case against the Government on behalf of Mairia Cahill.

The former SDLP councillor brought the legal challenge after she was forced to pull out of Northern Ireland’s local elections in 2019 over fears for her safety.

Ms Cahill said there was a court order in place to protect her from violence and that the law breached the rights of victims of domestic abuse.

She said: “I wish to thank the NIHRC and the people who supported me in taking this case, which has – no doubt – influenced the British Government to change the law so that nobody again will have their safety put at risk by having to publish their home address.

“Personally, it is frustrating that this settlement did not come much sooner in the process, which would have saved time, effort and public money.

“Nevertheless, I am glad that nobody else will now be put in the position that I was, again.”

Ms Cahill, who was co-opted on to Lisburn and Castlereagh Council as a councillor, was supported by the NIHRC in her case.

Responsibility for election law in Northern Ireland falls to the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) and the law has now been changed.

Candidates can now indicate if they do not wish their home address to be disclosed.

NIHRC chief commissioner Les Allamby said: “The previous election law put, for example, victims of domestic violence at risk by forcing them to publish their address.

“It was unacceptable to expect anyone to jeopardise their safety to run for public office.

“The commission welcomes the decision to change the law, settle this case and pay compensation, given that Mairia lost the opportunity to stand as a candidate in local elections.

“We would like to thank Mairia for allowing us to support her to take the case and for her courage.

“She has paved the way to protect the human rights of anyone who may have faced similar circumstances in the future.”

A NIO spokesperson said: “Following the May 2019 elections the Government ensured the law was changed as quickly as possible to ensure that candidates may now stand at local elections without their address being published.”

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence