Dáil debates

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

4:40 pm

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Solidarity)

I referred to the many members of the women's parliamentary caucus who do not stand for a woman's right to choose. I welcome this issue being discussed but I wanted to clarify my position. Period poverty is directly related to wider poverty. A report on lone parents was published last week. In Ireland, 84% of lone parents are unable to meet unexpected expenses, including sanitary products for themselves and their teenage children. Lone parents were subjected to savage austerity by the previous Government in particular.

Speaking on RTÉ, a representative of Crosscare pointed out that sanitary products are never on the shelf for long in food banks. Women are queuing for food but also for sanitary products. Half of young people have had problems paying for sanitary products and about 10% stated they used a less suitable product. Constituents of the former Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, who cut allowances for lone parents and young people, experience this problem as well. The low level of payments to people in direct provision has been mentioned. How is it possible for someone on €21 a week to afford these sanitary products? A similar issue arises in the context of Traveller accommodation where some Traveller women do not have access to basic toilets or running water. They will not be able to have sanitary products either.

Regarding the motion, the provision of free sanitary products in public buildings is essential. The British Government announced today that it will provide free sanitary products for all secondary schools. The same should happen here and the Government should make such an announcement very quickly. A motion from a Solidarity councillor in Castleknock, Sandra Kavanagh, has been on the agenda of Fingal County Council for three months and has not yet been reached. It calls on Fingal County Council to implement a similar measure. I ask that the motion be attended to.

The Chairman of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills noted in August 2018 that parents were being asked to bring toilet rolls into schools. The chronic underfunding of schools by previous two or three Governments would have to be completely reversed if we were to implement this motion. We should go much further. Sanitary products are essential items in any developed society and they should be available free everywhere, not only in public buildings. Most people will not be in a public building when they need a sanitary product. These products are needed at different times. If we want period dignity, something Unite and other trade unions are taking up as an issue, sanitary products should be free in workplaces and freely available throughout society.

While I welcome this motion, it needs to go much further. The Government needs to stop vetoing our sex education Bill. Some 60% of young people who responded to a survey indicated they were not properly educated about menstruation.

That includes boys and girls, which is relevant if we want to end the taboo. I, therefore, call on the Government to stop using the money message as a device to stop our Bill from being progressed because that would be a sign that the Government really means business.

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