Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions


2:15 pm

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Dublin Bay South, Labour)

I want to start by expressing solidarity with the people of Ukraine in the wake of Russia's horrific attack on a children's hospital in Kyiv yesterday. I welcome the Taoiseach's calling out of that attack as a war crime because it was a war crime. It is another in a series of war crimes committed by Russia in its brutal invasion of Ukraine. It must be condemned by all of us and all of those across Europe.

I want to pay tribute again to the courageous advocacy of Natasha O'Brien and Bláthnaid Raleigh. In their powerful advocacy and their courage in coming forward, they shone a light on the reality of violence against women in Irish society. This week, we have seen more brave women and courageous advocates coming forward. We saw it on Sunday evening in the powerful programme broadcast by "RTÉ Investigates" following an investigation by Marie Crowe and Mark Tighe of the Sunday Independent, in which we heard from a number of very brave women who spoke about their past experience of abuse within the FAI.

But for the courage of those who have spoken out, the horrendous experiences of the women like those who spoke on the programme would never have come to light, because we know it takes courage. It is traumatising for those who have experienced harassment to speak up and speak out. Speaking truth to power carries risk for those who have been grievously wronged. These brave women have done the State some service, undoubtedly at a significant personal cost. Their testimony cannot be for nothing.

Irish society must reckon with the reason why so many women and children throughout so many organisations and institutions have endured horrific sexual abuse and violence over the years. We know the FAI is not the first organisation or indeed the first sports body to have come into the spotlight for this abuse. Our country is sadly no stranger to disclosures of horrific abuse of power in many different settings. I am thinking back to disclosures in the industrial schools, Magdalen institutions, schools, scouting organisations, the Defence Forces, sports and the arts and entertainment sector. It is just not good enough. Women should expect to be able to go about our lives free from harassment and fear of violence. Children should be able to take part in activities and sports without fear of harassment or abuse. Across Ireland, we have seen organisations and institutions stepping up, responding to the disclosures and putting in place appropriate safeguards. The change that has happened makes the account of the women who spoke to RTÉ and Aoife Hegarty's team so harrowing, because it reminds us that this abuse has gone on quite recently.

Players, ranging from former Republic of Ireland internationals to trainees, reported how the abuse they suffered had damaged careers and ruined lives. It included physical harassment, homophobic abuse and a suffocating power dynamic within an organisation. I welcome that the FAI has now responded but I ask that the Taoiseach and the Ministers, Deputies Catherine Martin and Thomas Byrne, take a lead. As Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said yesterday, they need to take a lead on unearthing experiences of abuse in sporting organisations. We need to uncover this and continue to shine a light on it.


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