Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Period Poverty: Motion
Seán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
I thank my colleague, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, for sharing her time with me. I, too, congratulate Deirdre Kingston, Rebecca Moynihan and people such as George Lawlor - I speak for my own party in this regard - for raising awareness of this issue and certainly building my consciousness of period poverty. It is an issue I would have typically shied away from previously, saying it was very much a women's issue. It is not one on which I would have necessarily engaged. People such as Ms Moynihan, to be fair to her, have certainly opened my eyes to the issues at play here. As a society, if we are to move on and really to achieve full equality, there must be an acknowledgement of issues such as this, and we as men must embrace these issues. It is particularly welcome that the Women's Caucus has embraced this as an issue, and I am delighted to be part of the debate and the interaction today.
On a personal level, I congratulate everyone who is part of this initiative. What we see here is a cross-party attempt to ensure that this issue is dealt with by Government. I congratulate the people from the NGO sector who have worked on this issue. It is particularly apposite that in the House of Commons today, notwithstanding the bad news we are used to hearing from that House, there was a chink of light in Philip Hammond's spring statement. He said he has decided to fund the provision of free sanitary products in secondary schools and colleges in England from the next school year. I am no fan of the Tories, but if the Tories can do it, I do not see why we cannot. I think there would be cross-party support to try to ensure that this could be done. If local authorities are doing it and embracing this as an issue, I do not see why Government cannot do likewise, particularly given it has cross-party support to do so. I am, therefore, hopeful the Government can deliver on this and respond substantially to the motion before us.