Dáil debates

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

4:20 pm

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)

I congratulate the Oireachtas Women's Parliamentary Caucus on bringing this matter to the floor of the Dáil. It is about normalising what is normal in the sense that what we are taking about is something that happens every day in houses across this country and the world. At the same time, it is a taboo issue in many cultures. Very often, it is an uncomfortable issue for people to discuss. The reason I am anxious to speak about is in the context of young girls who are just coming into puberty and experiencing periods for the first time and the fact that, very often, the education relating to that is not what it should be both in terms of periods themselves and sexual health and reproduction. It is an area where we have consistently fallen down. Even in this country, there is a lack of awareness of women's reproductive rights and equality in that area and menstruation and puberty. It is an issue that is not discussed openly. I could sense that even in the context of the discussions on the eighth amendment. When one talks about issues such as this, there is very much a sense that they are "underground" issues for many people. They just do not want to discuss them. From that point of view, it is a very welcome debate and something for which we should push.

Regarding the practicalities, we must accept that there is poverty in this country. Anything that diminishes the ability of a woman or young girl to access sanitary products or interferes with her reproductive health is something we must address. Councillor Rebecca Moynihan of Dublin City Council and many others have been campaigning to ensure sanitary products are available for free in public buildings and schools along with education. This campaign should be encouraged and supported at every opportunity. That is something for which we should campaign, both as individual political parties and in the context of the caucus.

There is a broader issue. We have spoken here about female genital mutilation and many other issues where we must start undermining and exposing the taboos regarding women's health, reproductive rights and menstruation. I congratulate the Oireachtas Women's Parliamentary Caucus. Hopefully, the Government will be able to embrace this motion and provide free sanitary products in public buildings, particularly schools, along with education.

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