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A devastating memoir and the reality of Sinn Féin—Head of Zeus acquires Rough Beast by Mairia Cahill

Head of Zeus to publish Rough Beast by Mairia Cahill, a devastating memoir and a book of burning relevance

A devastating memoir and a book of burning relevance to the future of Irish democracy, EIC Neil Belton has acquired Rough Beast, by Mairia Cahill. It will be published under the Apollo imprint in September 2023.

Polls show that Sinn Féin is now the most popular of all the political parties in Ireland, with particularly strong support among young people. It has positioned itself as a party of the left that can solve the housing crisis, impose a more equitable tax and health system, and promises a united Ireland.

Mairia Cahill is a refugee from Sinn Féin and the shadowy world of the IRA: her great-uncle Joe was one of the main founders of the Provisional IRA and her grandfather mentored Gerry Adams in the republican movement. From an early age she was destined for a glittering career within the increasingly successful political machine of Sinn Féin. But at the age of 16, she was sexually abused by a prominent Belfast IRA man. 

The organisation forced her to take part in an inept and insensitive internal ‘investigation’ and swept his crimes under the carpet. She was subjected to round after round of interrogations by senior IRA men and women, usually in a network of safe houses around Belfast.

Doubt was cast on her account of what had been done to her. Her assailant was allowed to confront and denounce her. In chilling scenes, Gerry Adams himself, a man she had known from a very young age, expressed avuncular concern for her welfare despite the grotesque and illegal process conducted by his comrades. Eventually her rapist was permitted to vanish from Belfast while the IRA professed bafflement about his whereabouts.

The leaders of Sinn Féin have consistently been called on by Cahill to acknowledge that she was subjected to IRA ‘investigations’ into her abuse. The party has refused to do so.

Rough Beast is Mairia Cahill’s harrowing story, which she tells here for the first time in detail and with unsparing honesty. It is a story of unimaginable trauma and paramilitary corruption. It brings to life a world of IRA secrecy and parallel laws, of ruthless power wielded by figures who have never been democratically elected, and of ex-gunmen inspiring fear and silence. 

Mairia Cahill said that while Anna Burns wrote brilliantly about a young woman living in “totalitarian-run enclaves” where brutality was as rife as the rumours which centred on her, in her novel Milkman, that the novel had nothing to do with her—yet in her world “people also lived through appalling processes of mind and bodily control.”

“Writing this book, I didn’t want it to be simply a documentation of the abuse I suffered. I wanted it to do more: to both explain and explore how powerful organisations can mould minds and life journeys through their actions, so that people will learn from it and ensure that no one else is treated in the same way.

“In my case, the IRA and Sinn Féin dealt with the matter of sexual abuse appallingly – both before and after I waived a lifetime right to anonymity. I have to question how any political party can be trusted to treat its electorate properly when it treated an abuse victim so disgracefully. This book describes my fight to hold my abuser, the IRA, Sinn Féin, and the criminal justice process to account. But it also, hopefully, will illustrate that those who have suffered can, despite everything, shape their own future, and that they should not simply be labelled as an ‘abuse victim’.”

Neil Belton said: “I was aware of Mairia’s courageous public campaign to hold Sinn Féin to account for what was done to her and to ask the party to acknowledge that they conducted a secret ‘inquiry’ into her sexual assault – a process that added insult to injury. I was not prepared for the horrifying, careful accumulation of detail in Mairia’s extraordinary account of her ordeal, and what it says about the modus operandi of the Republican movement. This is an important book.”

Mairia Cahill is a former Irish Senator and Councillor. At the age of sixteen she was abused by a member of the IRA and waived anonymity in 2014. This led to a furore in the Irish media and debates in Dáil Éireann and the Northern Irish Assembly, culminating in an investigation by Sir Keir Starmer and a public apology from the DPP. Cahill now writes a political opinion column for the Sunday Independent, has written for the Belfast Telegraph and Fortnight Magazine, and regularly appears as a media commentator.