Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Period Poverty: Motion
I will take less than that. Deputy Shortall will take the majority of the time.
I was very pleased to be able to attend the briefing in the AV Room yesterday where Plan International and Homeless Period Ireland explained this issue. I needed to have it explained to me. I was glad that it was done and I am very glad that we are having this debate.
To refer to Deputy Harty's comment, I am not certain that the taboo has gone. It is certainly not gone among people of my sex and generation. It is awkward if one is asked to buy tampons for someone.
I was amazed during the discussion in the AV Room yesterday, which was a very good discussion, to discover the taboo is still there and is not something from previous generations. Deputy Catherine Martin said earlier that 60% of young girls still feel a sense of shame and embarrassment. Breaking that taboo is not a small thing. The word "menstruation" was mentioned 27 times in the House in the past 100 years. We have shattered that record this evening and that is a good thing. It is right that the women's caucus has broken that taboo.
I agree with Deputy Harty that we should go further, perhaps at the suggestion of the women's caucus, on the issue of free contraception. It would be perfectly appropriate. It is something about which we can come together because it is not party political. We all want to tackle every aspect of poverty but it is not always easy to get agreement on some other ways to do that. That should not preclude us getting cross-party consensus where we can by coming up with specific, targeted and focused measures. The women's caucus has done an important job in doing that this evening.
It is also timely. I am on the Committee on Budgetary Oversight and we were considering the start of the budget cycle. The European Commission was before the committee today with the country review and this is exactly the right day to be discussing budget proposals. This is a specific, targeted and beneficial budgetary proposal. The test of today's debate will be on 10 October, or whatever date the budget will be delivered. It is right to come in early and say this should be in the budget. It will cost approximately €1 million a year to go into every prison and school and ensure we are tackling period poverty.
This is also about education. It is not just poverty in financial terms, it is poverty that comes from people not talking about something and poverty that comes with taboo. We will help to break that with the provision of that €1 million to make all our young people, and our men, better informed and treat this issue with real difference. That is what this debate is about this evening.