Dáil debates

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

4:25 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Rachaimid ar aghaidh go dtí an chéad phíosa gnó eile, is é sin ráitis maidir le foréigean ar bhonn inscne. Tá 145 nóiméad againn don phíosa oibre seo.

This debate, as Members know, has been prompted by the tragic and untimely death of Ashling Murphy. May she rest in peace. I remind Members that this is a policy debate on the issues. They should not make reference to any ongoing Garda investigation. In accordance with the tradition in Standing Orders of the House, I ask Members to please avoid passing any comment which might impact on a future trial. I know that I can rely on Members to be circumspect and considered in their remarks. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, are sharing the first speaking slot. Between them they have 20 minutes.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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It was around this time last week that Ashling Murphy went out for a run in Tullamore. At the start of her career and at the start of the new year, Ashling was in the prime of her life and was looking forward to the time ahead. But, as we all know, this talented and beautiful young woman never made it home. On behalf of everyone in the Government and everyone in this House, I wish to convey my profound sympathy and sorrow again to Ashling's family, her partner, her friends, her colleagues, her pupils and to the wider community in which she played such an active part. As a society, we have learned something of Ashling's life over the past week, a life which was evidently so rich and full of accomplishments. We may feel that we got to know this talented and gifted young teacher and musician a little. The tragedy of course is that we will never learn what else Ashling would have achieved and how many more lives she would have enriched. The grief Ashling’s family is feeling is indescribable. Ashling's entire community is bereft. I am so sorry that this happened to the Murphy family and that this dark moment in Ireland's history has taken this vivacious and creative young woman from them. May Ashling rest in peace.

This shocking crime has left the entire country devastated and it has given rise to legitimate questions about whether we are doing enough to prevent violence against women. One week on from Ashling's murder, it is important and appropriate that the House meets to discuss what needs to be done. A lot of work has already been undertaken and more is under way. However, everyone in this House has a perspective and an input to make. I assure Deputies that the Government is open to all constructive suggestions as to how Ireland can eradicate violence against women and ensure that everything possible is done to prevent a crime of this nature from happening again.

Our primary and necessary response to Ashling’s death is clear. We want and we need a zero-tolerance approach to violence against women. This will require all of us, as a society, to commit to lasting change. Deputies will be aware that, led by the Department of Justice, we have been working on a new whole-of-government strategy to combat domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Work on this project has been under way for the past 12 months and it is approaching conclusion. The fundamental goal of this strategy echoes so much of what has been asked for in recent days: zero tolerance in respect of violence against women. Implementation of the strategy will be driven by the Minister for Justice. Her Department will assume responsibility for services for victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, in addition to policy responsibility. A detailed plan for how this will work is in preparation and will be brought Government for decision. The Cabinet Committee on Social Affairs and Equality, which I chair, will be fully utilised to bring a dedicated focus to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, with oversight from my Department.

Let there be no doubt that the full support of the Office of An Taoiseach will be given to this priority area and it will play a key role in ensuring that all Departments deliver on their commitments. The new strategy recognises that this is a problem that can only be solved by all of society and the Government working together. It is not simply a criminal justice issue. The new strategy will be structured around four pillars, namely, prevention, protection, prosecution and co-ordinated policies. The strategy has been developed in partnership with those involved in protecting and supporting women to ensure that it is targeted, comprehensive and effective in achieving all of the goals set out.

To help ensure its focus is where it really needs to be, in the coming weeks the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, will be inviting feedback through a targeted public consultation process on the final draft of the strategy. The finalised strategy is expected to be brought to Government in early March.

The discussion today about what our next steps need to be is critically important, but I also want to inform Deputies and the public of important work that is ongoing in this area. We continue to drive forward the Government’s plan to support victims and vulnerable witnesses in sexual violence cases through our plan, Supporting a Victim’s Journey. The plan is being implemented so that victims of a crime can come forward safe in the knowledge that the system will support them. Its implementation is instrumental in ensuring we have a criminal justice system that works for vulnerable victims at every stage of their journey. It is a system that supports vulnerable victims and empowers them to report offences, knowing they will be supported, informed and treated respectfully throughout the criminal justice process. That is what we are striving for and working towards.

There have also been some important legislative advancements in this area in recent years. The commencement of the Domestic Violence Act 2018 on 1 January 2019 created a number of significant improvements, including the offence of coercive control. It recognises in law the devastating impact that emotional abuse can have on those it is inflicted upon. The enactment of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 introduced a statutory definition of consent to a sexual act. The Minister for Justice also prioritised the enactment of Coco’s Law, which outlawed image-based sexual abuse, and in February last year she signed an order bringing this important new law into force. As well as outlawing image-based sexual abuse, Coco’s Law broadened the existing offence of harassment and increased the maximum penalty for harassment from seven years to ten years, in order to reflect the harm caused by the most serious forms of harassment. The proposed hate crime legislation will create new, specific hate-aggravated offences for crimes motivated by prejudice against certain characteristics. The new offences will carry tougher sentences than ordinary forms of crime, and gender will be one of those characteristics.

Education and awareness raising have also played an important part in the Government’s fight against sexual and gender-based violence and that will continue with the new strategy. Over the past number of years, the Department of Justice has been working to raise awareness generally about how we, as a society, need to stop excusing unacceptable behaviour. For example, the No Excuses campaign highlighted this determination to challenge people and the culture, prejudice and values that allow any form of sexual harassment or sexual violence. Education is key and this education needs to start from the earliest years on. Using appropriate material, it should encompass subjects such as healthy relationships, gender equality, respect and an understanding of consent. It needs to continue throughout the education and learning experience and into the workplace.

Preventing abusive behaviour will require the eradication of certain social and cultural attitudes held by many men, which contribute to women feeling unsafe. To be frank, we need a sea change in culture and attitude in our society. As men, we need to listen to women and hear what they are saying. Misogyny is simply unacceptable and it needs to be eliminated from our society. We all know there is no single solution to ending domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Tackling it requires a multifaceted approach with genuine engagement and partnership. We need sufficient supports and services available throughout the country, appropriate legislation, an effective policing response and the culture shift within our society that I referenced earlier. I assure the House that this Government is working to achieve these goals and our focus is fixed.

This Government also understands that resources are fundamental to tackling this issue. As we have demonstrated in budget 2022, and as we will continue to demonstrate, this effort will be appropriately resourced. It is important to note that knowledge and information are essential to developing effective policies to prevent and combat sexual violence and important work is under way in that regard. The SAVI report, which was commissioned by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and first published in 2002, was an important and groundbreaking piece of research. Some 20 years on, it is important that we get up-to-date information and best-in-class research. The Government has engaged the CSO to develop and deliver a significant new national survey on the prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland. It will look in detail at the experience of sexual violence and abuse for both women and men in Ireland and we will also be open to other ideas on how we ensure we are working from and with best-in-class research. It is important that we have a solid evidence base to guide us in developing policies and legislation.

Ashling’s death has shocked our nation. We have spent much of the past week questioning ourselves, our friends and wider society. Mainly, we are questioning our attitudes towards women. Are we doing anything to help? Are we doing enough to help? Are we part of the problem? How can we be part of the solution? Zero tolerance of violence against women is the goal. It is a necessary and fundamental objective of a safe and mature democracy and it must be the target for our Republic. By continuing to work together I am confident we can get there. The appalling and tragic death of Ashling Murphy has touched everyone. It has galvanised our national determination to bring about change in this area. We can and must do it. Enough is enough.

4:35 pm

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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The past week has seen people across the country mourn the loss of Ashling Murphy, a beautiful young woman who represents the very best of us. We all stand in solidarity with Ashling’s family, including Ray, Kathleen, Cathal and Amy, her boyfriend Ryan, and her community. I offer my deepest condolences to them. May Ashling rest in peace. The many strands of her cruelly short life were brought together yesterday in a funeral that was distinctly Irish. There was wonderful music that reminded us of her talent, as well as the support of the communities of Mountbolus, Blueball and Tullamore, the pupils from her school in Durrow, her camogie teammates and so many others.

I was struck in particular by a collection of photographs of Ashling. Photographs are a snapshot in time but they offer us a window into someone's life. There were photographs of happy occasions and of generations of her family and communities coming together and sitting around the same table, singing, dancing and playing music together. This is something we all know and cherish. There were Snapchat posts of Ashling and her friends on nights out and photographs of them travelling and discovering the world for themselves. What we saw in those photos we see in our own lives. They are moments that are so familiar to all of us. Perhaps that is why Ashling’s death has struck a chord with so many of us. In Ashling, we see our sisters, our daughters and our mothers. In her family, we see our own, and as women, we see ourselves. We can all put ourselves in Ashling's position and in her shoes. While we might not be runners we all put ourselves in a position where we are out walking or taking exercise and for something like this to happen is shocking.

I have struggled this week, as have many others, with a mixture of emotions. I have felt shock, disbelief, anger, upset and determination. I am not alone in this House when I say I cried many times this week, not just for Ashling but for others, such as Urantsetseg Tserendorj, Jastine Valdez, Ana Kriegel, Nadine Lott, and so many others. These are names we know and others that are not familiar to us. This is why we stand in solidarity and anger, but also in quiet determination that we must all work together to achieve a shared goal of zero tolerance of violence and abuse against women.

I have prioritised this issue since becoming Minister for Justice but I am well aware that much more needs to be done. The solutions will not come from legislation alone, nor can we tackle domestic, sexual and gender-based violence simply by treating it as a criminal justice issue. What is required is societal and cultural change. We have failed, quite simply, if we allow ourselves to get to a situation where some men develop such unhealthy attitudes towards women that it leads them to commit these types of crimes and end up in the criminal justice system. As the Taoiseach said, I am leading the development of the third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. We have been working on this strategy for over a year and we listened to those in the sector and those who work on the front line.

I am so grateful for their work, support and contributions. We have listened to victims and survivors.

I will receive input from across Government from the Departments of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Social Protection, Transport and so on. There will also be input from our State agencies. The strategy will be underpinned by clear actions, timelines for reform and robust accountability mechanisms and it will be resourced as it should be. It will be built on four pillars, namely, prevention, protection, prosecution and policy co-ordination. The goal is very clear: zero tolerance of violence and abuse against women.

To prevent violence against and abuse of women, we must eradicate the societal and cultural attitudes which make women feel unsafe. We can only do so by changing our cultural attitudes in order to ensure that we are not all bystanders and that we do not look the other way but, rather, call out inappropriate behaviour when and everywhere we see it in the workplace, the dressing room, the pub, the golf club or in a WhatsApp group.

We also have to face up to and tackle the appalling effect easy access to pornography is having on boys. Pornography is not new, but how it is accessed, how accessible it has become and the fact it has become even more violent is having such a detrimental and damaging impact on young men and women. We must intervene early to teach our sons appropriate lessons, from primary school up to every level of our education, and we must focus on healthy relationships, gender equality and consent.

The Government will help lead conversations in this regard in to bring about a better understanding among men. My Department will soon launch a national campaign on consent. I know that so many men have been thinking deeply about this over the past week. I have seen so much commentary on social media and elsewhere. We cannot do this without men. We need them to stand with us. We need to make this change and make sure this moment counts.

For victims, coming forward to report what is happening to them is often the hardest decision. There is a responsibility on all of us to protect victims when they look for our help by ensuring that there is a refuge space, if that is what they need, by supporting more women to live safely in their own homes, if that is their choice, by reassuring victims that they will be treated with dignity and respect by the criminal justice system and through Supporting a Victim’s Journey, my plan to help victims and vulnerable witnesses in sexual violence cases. We are making progress.

While this is not simply a criminal justice issue, as Minister for Justice, I want to be clear. I will do whatever it takes to make sure that perpetrators are investigated, prosecuted and face the full rigours of the law, that the punishment matches the crime, that the Garda will have the resources and technology it needs and that our laws are adequate and strong enough to bring abusers to justice. I acknowledge the dedicated work by An Garda Síochána in its investigation into Ashling’s murder. I know that the Garda is determined to bring her killer to justice, as is the position with every case.

This year I will introduce legislation to strengthen the law in a number of areas. The new Garda Síochána (powers) Bill 2021 will provide a clear and transparent statutory basis for the existing powers of search, arrest and detention. The Garda Síochána (digital recording) Bill 2021 will provide for the use of the necessary modern technology in the investigation of serious crime. This will help with domestic and sexual violence. Before Easter, I will publish a Bill that will include new criminal offences for stalking and non-fatal strangulation. The act of stalking is already covered by existing law, but I will propose the following changes to make the law even clearer and stronger. We will explicitly reference stalking as a criminal offence. I will make it clear that stalking includes watching or following a person, even if the person does not know that he or she is being watched or followed. I will also make it clear that impersonating the victim and then contacting a third person is illegal. I will update the law to ensure that it covers all forms of communication. I will also consider introducing a provision to allow a victim, in a very serious case, to apply to the court for an order to prevent an alleged perpetrator from contacting him or her before the trial. I especially want to thank Eve McDowell and Una Ring who have campaigned tirelessly for this, and Senator Lisa Chambers who has worked hard on this issue in the Seanad.

While choking and strangulation are already illegal, creating a new offence will encourage victims to come forward and report what has happened to them. It has been shown that this crime can be an indication of future lethal violence and, in particular, is a risk factor in the context of homicides of women in their own homes. As the Taoiseach mentioned, I will publish a new criminal justice (hate crime) Bill that will introduce new specific aggravated offences with enhanced penalties for crimes motivated by prejudice against certain characteristics, including gender.

Before the end of September, I will publish a new sexual offences Bill that will introduce important changes, one of which includes the extension of victim anonymity to further categories of victims. I will also repeal provisions for sentences to be delivered in public. This legislation will introduce legal representation for victims.

I will also seek to enact the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill 2021 within the coming months in order to strengthen the management and monitoring of sex offenders in the community. Within weeks, I will sign the order to bring into operation legislation that provides for preliminary trial hearings. This will significantly improve the trial process for victims of sexual offences. I will bring forward more legislation and policy, if needed.

I accept what those working on the front line have told us, namely, that the services the Government and the State are too diffuse and need to be streamlined. Victims should always have easy access and should always understand the supports and resources available to them. We are taking action to make change.

Following consultation with the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, it is intended that the responsibility for policy and service provision for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence will be combined under the Minister for Justice. Work is under way on how this will be structured. I will announce further details in the coming weeks. I thank the dedicated staff of Tusla who continue to focus on supporting efforts in this area. As the Taoiseach outlined, there will be oversight from the Department of the Taoiseach to make sure that everything we do is delivered.

I cannot stand here today and say "Never again". Unfortunately, I cannot say that no woman will suffer at the hands of a man tonight. None of us can. What we can do is commit to Ashling and so many other women and we can commit to each other that we will dedicate ourselves to the long and difficult path of change. We all know the pain, upset and story only too well. Let us all hold on to the determination and solidarity that exists among us this week and come together in a common cause, on behalf of Ashling and so many other women, to demand zero tolerance of any kind of violence against or abuse of women.

4:45 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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We now move to Sinn Féin. Deputy McDonald will share with Deputies Stanley and Tully.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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Ar dtús, ba mhaith liom mo chomhbhrón ó chroí a thabhairt do chlann, do chairde agus do phobal Ashling Murphy. Ba bhean eile í ar tógadh i gcás uafásach í. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis. Over the past week, many words have been used to describe how the women of Ireland feel following Ashling's horrific murder, including "frightened", "angry", "worn out" and "tired". All of these things are true. We are again overwhelmed by the violation, pain and loss caused by the epidemic of male violence that blights our lives every single day. Generations of Irish women have been forced to live alongside this abuse, behind closed doors at home and in public spaces.

Physical violence and emotional coercive control represent the shared experience of far too many women. All week, we have listened to women share their stories; women who have been subjected to violence, harassment or abuse at the hands of men. The vast majority of these cases were never reported or officially recorded. In that respect, we are still dealing with an unmeasured, if not unspoken, crisis.

The fact is that violence against and emotional abuse of women are systemic. Yes, women are afraid, not of our surroundings or the time of the day or night, but of violent and abusive men. These men target us in our own homes, on the street, in our workplaces, on the bus and in the pub. Women are afraid because our lives may be on the line. Hundreds of women in Ireland have died violently. Hundreds of lives have been cut short in the most devastating way. Last Wednesday, Ashling Murphy, sadly, was added to that toll. Ashling, a young woman of 23, was attacked by a man while out for a run in broad daylight in a public space. She was in a public space and, yet, violence still found her. This is why women and girls have been afraid forever.

The truth is that women have the right to be safe, no matter what we are doing or where we are. We have the right to be safe on the bus after work or on a night out partying. We have a right to be safe in the shopping centre or walking home having spent the night with friends. We have the right to be safe working out in the gym and in our workplaces and homes.

How and where we choose to live our lives or spend our time or how we decide to dress is irrelevant, the length of our skirt or how we wear a top is not an invitation to grope us, women having fun in a nightclub is not a signal to rape us, walking or jogging alone is not a green light to murder us, and yet the warped and twisted logic of misogyny conjures up this notion that a woman is asking for it. Asking for what exactly - to have our lives shattered, to be traumatised, to die? What we are asking for and, indeed, what we demand is that men stop inflicting awful violence on us.

Over the past seven days, I have heard contributions to the discussion that focused on what women might do to stay safe. Ideas range from new apps to the provision of cans of Mace to every woman in the country. This misses the point completely because women do everything they can to stay safe. Most of us have our mental checklist - the car keys between the fingers, pretending we are on the phone when we think we are being followed, changing our route home, taking self-defence classes. Women do all of these things and more and yet horrible violence finds us. Why? Because the problem is not the behaviour in decisions of women. The problem is violent and abusive men. Nobody ever said, by the way, that it is all men but it is certainly far too many.

The truth is that violence against women, including coercive control, is demonstrably a male problem - a problem that men must be central to solving. Men must acknowledge the problem and play their part in changing things, and that means speaking out against the systemic culture of misogyny and sexism that has dogged women for generations. It means becoming allies of women in creating real change and raising all of our sons to be better and to view and treat all women as their equals.

This terrible moment must spark real change in our society but we cannot do it without a Government that is truly committed to ending violence against women. Service providers tell us that they struggle to cope due to cuts in funding and at the very least we should ensure that every rape crisis centre has enough funding to answer every call.

There are things that Government can do today to make things better. The first is to commit to fully implement, resource and support the third strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence when it is published in March. We in Sinn Féin have also called for the establishment of a unit in the Department of the Taoiseach to co-ordinate the decision-making, policy and legislation that is currently, as has been conceded, so fragmented across Departments and Government agencies. The role of this unit would be to co-ordinate and ensure that Departments deliver on their responsibilities under the national strategy.

We also need better data on gender-based crime and we need the sexual violence survey to be fast-tracked. We need the full implementation of the domestic homicide review to be prioritised. Hundreds of women have been killed in their own homes - that place that should be our sanctuary.

In the area of domestic violence, the Government must face up to the crisis in refuge provision. Ireland has only one third of the refuge places we are obliged to provide for under the Istanbul Convention and nine counties have no refuge place at all. The Government must publish the Tusla review of emergency accommodation that is on the Minister's desk and follow up with the investment needed to dramatically increase refuge places, including the wrap-around services such as counselling and childcare.

I would also urge Government parties to support Sinn Féin's domestic violence paid leave Bill, which is due before the Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth next week. This is robust legislation modelled on existing employment rights and reflects provisions already in place in public and private organisations, such as NUI Galway, Vodafone and Danske Bank.

Women and girls are rightly sick of politicians promising change but never following through. Is anois an t-am do cheannaireacht agus do ghníomh. Ní leor deora agus ómós. Teastaíonn gníomh práinneach anois chun deireadh a chur le foréigean in aghaidh na mban. We cannot mourn and then allow violence against women to slip off the agenda once again. We cannot wait until another woman lies dead leaving behind a heartbroken family. To make the words "Enough is enough" real, to show we mean it, change must flow like a river. Women are fed up and worn out but, make no mistake, women are also fired up, determined and resolute.

We stand here today in remembrance of every woman violently killed. These women challenge those in power. They challenge all of us to act. Their message is "Forget me not and act". Remembering what we have lost must help to save what we cannot abide to lose again; another mother, another sister, another daughter, another friend, another woman. Their lives cannot become footnotes on a page or statistics in a report. Their lives mattered and their deaths matter too.

At this moment, here in this place a line must be drawn in the sand in order that today, I hope, would be remembered as the day when the Dáil finally came together to end violence against women to build a better future for a new generation. We cannot wait another day to make this happen. The women of Ireland have waited long enough and have paid far too heavy a price.

4:55 pm

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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The thoughts of all of us are with Ashling's family, her friends, her boyfriend and her colleagues, and the children who she taught who are experiencing terrible grief at this terrible time. I would like to acknowledge the incredible groundswell of support and solidarity that has been shown to the family, as well as the huge show of support that was there for the family at the funeral yesterday.

For far too long, harassment, violence and fear have impacted on the lives of women across this country. They have a right to be safe on our streets and in our homes, and yet too often they are not.

What happened to Ashling was horrendous and yet it is only the most recent in a long line of such incidents. In Laois-Offaly alone, for example, 28 years ago Imelda Keenan, a Mountmellick woman, went missing. She has not been found. No one has been brought to justice for it. Fiona Pender, last seen in Tullamore, went missing in 1996. Her parents are dead now. Her mother, Josie, spent the remainder of her life trying to find and get information on her and did not. Once again, despite the best efforts of the Garda and the community, no one has been held accountable. Marie Kilmartin, a young woman living in Portlaoise, was found buried in a bog hole in a drain in Mountmellick three decades ago. Over 244 women in Ireland have died violently since 1996. Women are subjected to misogyny, abuse, coercive control and harassment every single day and it must stop. Men must play their part in doing that. We need to change attitudes. We need to change behaviours. We need to ensure that violence against women and against girls is put to an end.

We need services that allow women to reach out whenever they are victims of domestic violence or other coercive methods. Nine counties, as has been said already, do not have a women's refuge centre. Laois and Offaly are two of those counties. I raised this over 20 years ago, as did others. Women and children in these two counties are being sent to refuges far away from their families, from their doctors and from their support groups and services. That has a huge impact. I have dealt with many of those families. Other Members in this House probably have as well over the years. I appeal to the Taoiseach that we need a women's refuge in Laois and we need one in Offaly. That must happen. Society needs to see that we, as legislators and parliamentarians, are taking this issue seriously. The time for talking is over and the time for action is now.

5:05 pm

Photo of Pauline TullyPauline Tully (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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What has become very clear since the horrific murder of Ashling Murphy last week is that practically every woman has a story to tell. Women have been speaking out bravely on the radio during the past week and have been recounting incidents of abuse, assault, rape, being groped, degraded or followed. The list goes on. This is women of all ages and all backgrounds. Disturbingly, some girls who were still in school recounted incidents of inappropriate touching or behaviour within the school community. Most of these instances go unreported. Tragically, since 1996, some 244 women, and many more before that date, are not here to tell their stories. The vast majority of them were killed by someone known to them, and in many cases by their current or former partner. Every time I hear about another woman being killed in her own home or out on the street like Ashling, it makes me sad for her and her family, but it also makes me really angry that some men feel that they can do what they want, when they want and to whom they want and often without repercussion.

Radical change is needed across a number of areas, including the Garda's approach to reports of domestic violence and the ludicrous sentences that many perpetrators of violence against women receive, because if it is not dealt with it gives the message that women's lives do not matter. Sex education in schools must encompass healthy relationships and the meaning of consent and mutual respect. Proper funding of domestic refuges is critical. More than 800 women were turned away from refuges last year. There are nine counties without refuges, including the two I represent, namely, Cavan and Monaghan. The refuges provide an excellent service but they do so on a shoestring. We are not living up to our commitments under the Istanbul Convention. We need one Minister to deal with this issue. I welcome the strategy, but if it is not properly resourced and funded, it is not worth the paper it is written on. Change was enacted very quickly after the horrific murder of Veronica Guerin. The same needs to happen now.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Dublin Bay South, Labour)
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I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate on behalf of the Labour Party following the horrific killing of Ashling Murphy in Tullamore, County Offaly last week. I begin by expressing my heartfelt sympathies and condolences to Ashling Murphy's family, her partner and friends, and to her community, the school she worked in and all of those who knew her. There has been an immense outpouring of grief nationally at the loss of such a wonderful young woman, with tens of thousands of people attending vigils in Ireland and abroad. Her killing has also generated an immense outpouring not only of grief but of anger at the extent to which all women are subjected to violence or to fear of violence. It has reminded us of so many other horrific killings of women in this country. This Thursday marks one year since the violent attack on Urantsetseg Tserendorj not far from here at the International Financial Services Centre, IFSC. Our thoughts are with her family and friends as we approach that anniversary, and with the families and friends of other women and girls killed so horrifically whose names have been spoken in this Chamber, including Ana Kriégel and Jastine Valdez.

Ashling's killing reminds us that, as Women's Aid has reported, 244 women have died violently since 1996, 152 of them killed in their own homes. It has also served to remind us of the extent to which all women and girls are daily subjected to harassment, abuse, violence and assault by men. In recent days we have had an outpouring of women's experiences and stories being recounted. What is perhaps most surprising for me and many of us in this Chamber is the extent to which our good male colleagues have often been unaware of the extent to which we experience everyday sexism and microaggressions. While such violence is only perpetrated by a small number of men, the fear of violence is experienced by all women. All of us who have grown up and live in this culture have become so accustomed to changing our behaviour, assessing risk on a daily basis and modifying our movements all the time because of this fear that we simply do not question it any more. It has become something that is unconscious. We all check ourselves every day. Other colleagues have spoken of the mental checklist we do everywhere we go. We ask if it is safe to walk or cycle down this street, to get into this taxi, to jog in this park or along this canal. This daily checking and the constant need to engage in risk monitoring is instilled in us from an early age. It has taken a horrific killing like that of Ashling Murphy last week to remind us that it is not acceptable that we have put up with this for so long and that we are seeing our teenage daughters also take on this unconscious risk monitoring and fear. I am a mother of teenage daughters. It is simply not acceptable that women and girls in society continue to experience this fear and to engage in this constant checking and risk monitoring.

This must be a watershed moment. Many have said that, but we are seeing a growing realisation among men and boys of the need to step up to challenge sexism and the culture in which misogyny and sexism is tolerated and in which men and boys continue to engage in public places in sexist or misogynistic jeering, catcalling, harassment or groping of women and girls. A study today shows that teenage girls have all but stopped cycling in Ireland largely because of a fear of harassment. It is time to engage in a radical culture shift, to adopt a policy of zero tolerance against violence against women and misogyny in all its forms. We know that gender inequality is the common strand which we see worldwide.

In my role as chairperson of the Special Committee on Gender Equality established by the Oireachtas just before Christmas, I will be working with colleagues on a cross-party basis to ensure the implementation of important recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly. The assembly made 45 recommendations to tackle gender inequality, five of which refer specifically to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Here is what we need to do to build on those recommendations urgently. First, we need a Cabinet Minister, and I am pleased the Minister for Justice is going to take the lead in co-ordinating and implementing all strategies to prevent and counter violence against women. The Minister must urgently publish the promised strategy on gender-based violence. I know she has committed to doing so. She must also expedite the publication of the data we so badly need to build on the sexual abuse and violence in Ireland, SAVI, data from 2002. In parallel with that, we must also see the rolling out a public awareness campaign focused on prevention and education for children in all schools through the relationships and sexuality education, RSE, programme – with no opt-outs for schools, whatever their ethos. We also need a parallel public awareness programme for adults to challenge misogyny and sexism in all its forms.

In addition to that, we need to see the implementation of the criminal justice reforms recommended in the O'Malley report and committed to by the Department of Justice in Supporting a Victim's Journey. Two issues that jump out from the O'Malley report are the fragmentation of services for victims across the country and the lack of a voice for victims in the courtroom. We need to see really serious work on that in the coming months and ensure there is legislation to increase the level of representation for the victim in the courtroom and that addresses the real fragmentation of services and the inadequate supports in particular for victims of domestic violence and the lack of sheltered provision. We know we still fall short of the requirements in the Istanbul Convention.

We need a fundamental change of emphasis to address not only the flaws in the criminal justice system, to build on the positive changes we have made such as Coco's Law and the introduction of the offence of coercive control and the definition of consent. We need legislation to tackle the existing gaps in the system but, in particular, we need to focus on the education and the cultural change. We need to recognise that given the gender imbalance in this House, where less than a quarter of us are women, that we must ask male colleagues to be aware of the unconscious bias that persists through our system and the chilling effect on women and girls of sexism, misogyny, mansplaining, sexist comments, exclusion and the other microaggressions that far too many women and girls continue to endure day in and day out. It falls to all of us, women and men, in this House and beyond, to take a stand against sexism and to take responsibility for ensuring that ours is a safe and equal country for all women and girls in which we stand up to sexism and misogyny in all its forms.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, is sharing with the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte.

Photo of Roderic O'GormanRoderic O'Gorman (Dublin West, Green Party)
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I join with the Taoiseach and Minister for Justice in paying tribute to Ashling Murphy, and offering my condolences to her family, friends and all those within her community who are grieving for her. The taking of a young life, a life that was so full of vitality and promise, has brought shock, revulsion and a great deal of reflection in Ireland, and through that, a necessary reckoning with the reality behind this appalling murder. We must call that for what it is: men's violence against women.

According to a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights survey, one in three women have experienced psychological violence by a current or former partner. Some 12% of Irish women and girls over the age of 15 have experienced stalking and more than 200 women have died violently in Ireland in the past two decades.

More than those statistics, we all know the stories. Every man in this Chamber will have heard from a female friend, from a colleague or from a family member about individual incidents of abuse, harassment and violence that those women have experienced from men. Too often, we men can sympathise or even empathise, but our action goes no further than that. This can no longer be a burden for women alone to carry. It should never have been their fight alone in the first place. As men, we have to recognise our role in this - in calling out the threatening behaviours, in making clear what is and is not acceptable behaviour any more and in banishing misogyny from public life. It is time for us, as men, to step up.

The Government is acting on the need for substantial and radical change in how we address domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. As part of the programme for Government, we recognised the epidemic of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. We also recognised the fragmented nature of the State's responses and commissioned an audit of how the Government could better respond to these needs. Since coming into office, we have prioritised responding to domestic violence, particularly in the context of Covid. I wish to acknowledge the huge efforts by Tusla in responding quickly and effectively to the Covid restrictions as part of its response to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, DSGBV, and the protection of children. My Department has increased funding for domestic violence services and we will shortly be introducing a statutory entitlement to paid leave for victims of domestic violence. This paid leave provision will be brought forward within the work-life balance directive Bill to allow it to be passed as quickly as possible.

Since the formation of this Government, I have worked intensively with the Minister, Deputy McEntee, and her Department on the audit of the Government’s response to domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence and how the results of that audit fit with the third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. As a result of those discussions and in response to the audit, we have agreed that the Department of Justice will be the lead Department with responsibility for responding to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, and responsibility for policy, accommodation and services also will sit within the Department of Justice. In the immediate term, Tusla will continue to have responsibility for accommodation and services while the new administrative arrangements are put in place.

Within my own Department, I am particularly conscious of the impact of domestic violence on children. In the course of this work with providers in the area of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, it is clear to Tusla that in addition to adult victims, there is now an increased need for a specialist child protection focus in domestic violence cases. As part of the resource allocation for Tusla in 2022, using additional resources I secured for the agency in this year's budget, Tusla will allocate domestic violence and abuse support practitioners to each of the six new Tusla regions. These will be provided at the point where child protection referrals are received. Tusla has noted an increase in child protection concerns related to domestic violence and this initiative will enable child protection duty teams to further enhance the response to child protection and welfare referrals to Tusla where domestic violence is a concern. While retaining this permanently within Tusla's child protection service, Tusla, as an agency of my Department, will now work closely with the Department of Justice to ensure a smooth transition of all other domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services.

Many have referred to the tragic killing of Ashling Murphy as a watershed moment in Ireland for violence against women but it will only be a watershed moment if we choose it to be. All of us, but in particular men in Ireland, have to be clear that this is the moment we will no longer tolerate threats, harassment, misogyny in public life or violence against women in this country. This is the moment when we stand up and when we speak up and say enough is enough.

5:15 pm

Photo of Anne RabbitteAnne Rabbitte (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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It is 3 a.m. I am in my bed alone. The phone rings. I shake off the sleep and answer. A man's voice, violent and determined: “We know where you are. You need to back off the lines. We will get you.” My voice catches in my throat. I cannot breathe. I say nothing. “Are you hearing me? We will get you.” Then silence. Just me, on my own, and the darkness. Safety robbed, security violated. Should I wake my children? Are we safe? Will the guards take a phone call seriously?

Not all men but all women will identify with the feelings that come following these encounters. Not all men but all women will know them well because they are not rare. Not all men but all women grow up knowing we are not safe. Not all men but all women will learn to text their friends when we arrive home safely because, for us, it is not a given that we will. Not all men but all women know the feeling that creeps up your back when you hear steps behind you and you have to check. Not all men but all women stay away from the darkness between street lights, sprinting from one bright spot to the next, hoping to be okay. Not all men but all women look for the parking space with CCTV cameras facing them, knowing that unlocking and locking and getting into their cars is one of the most vulnerable actions. Not all men but all women take the long way back - no shortcuts or alleyways. Not all men but all women know to keep their keys between their fingers, ready to defend ourselves. This is the fight of our lives and it is exhausting. Not all men but all women watched Ashling Murphy’s story play out and felt, “There is no reason that, one day, it might not be me on the news.”

We need men to help us through this pandemic of violence against women and girls. Now is not the time for cynicism or hopelessness. There is a political possibility here, and we can move forward in a way that makes us a global leader. Let us look at how we try rape and sexual assault in this country. Let us look at the hoops women have to jump through to get justice for assault. Let us look at creating a clear message to all men that protecting women will be celebrated and that violence against them will not be tolerated at any cost. While my colleagues work to bring forth legislation that will severely penalise abusive and threatening behaviour, we cannot do nothing. This is the fight of our lives.

Programmes like in Seas Suas in NUI Galway can make a real difference if funded at third level. At its core, it is an empathy and bystander intervention and well-being training programme. Students have already said they have used the skills developed in the programme to effectively intervene in crisis situations. Can we get rid of the shadows that support male violence by literally increasing visibility with LED lights? I know I would feel safer. Can the Department with responsibility for sport introduce a condition on funding allocated to sports clubs whereby they must work to increase the awareness and protection of women in clubs and communities?

We need to tackle the abusive online culture that has developed. It cannot just be seen as part of modern political life. I need to wind back the clock to last week. I was on “The Tonight Show”, speaking about Ashling Murphy, and I was told on Twitter that I needed to shut up, while another tweet said they wanted to punch me, although they used far more abusive language. Only yesterday, after speaking on Radio 1 about being threatened by a man in my office, I was told that I love an old yarn, that I make up stories and that I am a rat. What makes matters worse is that, for some women, they fear that they are seen to be weak or whinging if they speak up, so we say nothing and the abuse continues. The simple fact is that changing a toxic culture is not easy.

Can I ask everyone here to look into their own lives, their own sphere? Are you contributing to or condoning an anti-female sentiment, and if the answer is yes, are you willing to change? Have you seen tweets about their female colleagues? Have you intervened? Have you seen distasteful jokes on WhatsApp groups and said nothing? We need you to say something. Whenever you see it, call it out. There is an opportunity in every moment. Please help us. Because it is not all men but it is all women. It will require great humility, courage and strategy but I believe the change is possible.

5:25 pm

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
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When I was about eight years old I was on my first Take Back the Night march with my mother. It stuck in my mind what we chanted: "No matter what we are or where we go, 'Yes' means 'Yes' and 'No' means 'No'". That was 40 years ago, give or take. I have been on to too many protests, I have been marching too many times and we have worn out too much shoe leather. We know what the issues are and we should not still have to be on the streets and be highlighting the epidemic of violence against women. We should not have to keep telling our stories. We are sick and tired of telling our stories. We are sick and tired of taking that which happened to us and putting it into the public sphere. We nearly have to beg for allies, for politicians to listen and for men to understand. We are fed up with it. I have noticed in the last week that not only are women angry but they are fed up. I talked to my mother and we are fed up at this stage. We are fit to say that is enough is enough but we know we have said that too many times before.

The tragic killing of Ashling Murphy has sparked a national debate. From Belfast to Ballincollig and everywhere in between we have seen women and men gather together and silently reflect on the loss of Ashling, on all women who have been lost to violence and on the fact that many of us experience a real fear on a daily basis. I like to run. I am not very good at it and I cannot run very far or fast but I like to run. When I go out I am always careful because I try, as a woman approaching 50 years of age, to not “bring it on myself”. Imagine that is what I do before I leave the house. I have spoken to my husband about this and it comes as a revelation to good and decent men but I check myself before I go and think about what I am doing to “bring this on myself”. That should not happen and that is not personal to me but that is every women before they go out. We think about what we are wearing, where we are going, who will be there, how we are getting there and how we will get home. We ask ourselves these questions all of the time and carry out that little mental checklist: who will be there, will it be safe, is anyone coming home in the taxi with me and if I could persuade my husband to stay up and drive into town to bring me home. I am not afraid of the dark. I am grown woman, not a child, but I am afraid of being in the dark on my own or with someone behind me. That is not acceptable.

The Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, is right. We have to call it out when we see it and that means all of us. For most of my adult life I have worked in areas that are dominated by men, including the trade union movement and politics. I have been subjected to sustained and crippling sexual harassment in a previous job and when I raised concerns my boss told me that I was tougher than the men in that workplace and he asked me what I was going on about. To my shame, I did not say anything. I took it on the chin and I smiled because I thought that both of us were in on the joke, me and the boss, but it was not funny. I should have called it out and we should always, always call it out. To the good, decent men in the Oireachtas, I ask how many of them can honestly say they have never witnessed sexual harassment, that they have never been present when a sexist or misogynistic joke has been told. How many of you spoke up? The most important question is will you speak up now. When you hear the joke or sentiment or when you see one of your colleagues or someone from another political party being degraded will you speak out, will you call it out for what it is and stand up? We must stand up and acknowledge that violence against women happens because of the culture that is created by people who do not call it out.

We received an email yesterday that was circulated to all Deputies and I was struck by one line in it. It said:

Preventing men’s violence against women starts with creating a zero-tolerance culture towards misogyny and sexism that creates the context in which gender-based violence occurs.

That is why we have to call it out. I have written to the Ceann Comhairle to ask that we undertake bystander intervention training in these Houses. That is important and we should be doing that. I hope the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission will accede to that request.

A lot of what will be discussed today will be triggering for women. The Women’s Aid helpline is there at 1800 341 900. Women’s Aid is 50% funded by charity. It does brilliant work but it has to raise 50% of its funding. Every shilling that it raises represents time spent raising money when it should be helping women. We need to reflect on that.

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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I would like to add my voice to all those who have expressed condolences with the Murphy family, to Ashling’s friends and boyfriend and to the wider Tullamore community. The vigils held across Ireland for Ashling were also for every victim of gender-based violence, for the 244 women who have died violently since our records began and the 18 children killed with their mothers, for the thousands of women who are raped and sexually assaulted, and for the women and children who have had to flee their violent homes. We have all seen the scenes of the vigils with women and girls crying and hugging and quiet moments acknowledging common experiences. There was anger and fear, but also hope; a hope for change. This is a defining moment; this is the week that the people of Ireland, and in particular the women and girls, have said “No more”. Generations of Irish women have had to endure misogyny. Culturally, perpetrators are protected and victims are blamed. Coercion and street harassment are dismissed. That is not to mind the legacy of mother and baby homes and repeated health scandals. No more. This time, we will not and we cannot allow violence against women to continue.

As legislators, we have a responsibility to do more than merely express our sadness. We must direct State resources to dismantle the culture that underpins violence against women. Most disgracefully, the necessary actions are known but successive Governments have continually failed to provide the range of measures necessary. I have repeatedly asked for very clear and targeted interventions on gender-based violence, actions Government could and should have taken long ago. Today I am asking again that it address these points to help prevent violence and to respond adequately to the national outpouring of anger, solidarity and calls for change.

First, there is a pressing need for more domestic violence refuge spaces. The Istanbul Convention standard is one refuge space per 10,000 people but Ireland provides one space per 10,000 women, leaving us with 50% less capacity, including very little infrastructure for male victims. Instead of ensuring we meet the international benchmark, every time I ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth about it he refers to a clause in the convention that allows for fewer refuge spaces. This is not acceptable any more. Every day we do not meet our commitments under the convention we put more women and children at risk. It would cost €33 million to provide the additional spaces. In a budget of billions, it is a relatively small amount to ensure lasting support for victims and survivors of domestic violence.

Second, we need a drastic overhaul of how our justice system understands and responds to sexual assault and violence. There is a significant under-reporting of these crimes and their detection rates are the lowest for any category recorded; just 10%. There must be reforms in how policing and the courts system engage with victims. I welcome the recent reforms in this area, such as pre-trial hearings. Sexual violence and rape crisis support organisations have also outlined the further necessary changes for immediate implementation.

Third, there is an urgent need for education on consent, sexual violence, coercion and other types of assault, including online crimes. In November, the Government delayed the progress of the Social Democrats Bill on relationships and sex education. All students should have access to information to help them develop respectful social and sexual relationships. I am calling on the Government to overturn that ridiculous decision. We need proper sex education to contribute to a cultural change in how women and girls are viewed and treated and we need it now.

The past week has been a defining moment for gender-based violence in Ireland and the Government must match the resolve of every community. We need to hear what reason the Government can give the people of Ireland to believe anything will be different for women and girls? What concrete policies with tangible outcomes is the Government presenting today?

5:35 pm

Photo of Gary GannonGary Gannon (Dublin Central, Social Democrats)
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Last week, to try to make sense of an inconceivable loss, we pointed to the very simple act a young woman was doing when she was murdered by a man. Social media platforms ignited with a simple phrase, "She was just going for a run". In reminded me of the everyday acts that other women in this country were carrying out as they were murdered at the hands of men. She was just walking home from work. She had just returned from a night out. She was just in her home on Christmas Eve. There are no words that can make this okay for Ashling Murphy or for those who knew and loved her. There are no words that can make this right for any woman who has experienced the scourge of gender-based violence in public or in private, in her home or on the street. It requires political action, as has already been discussed, which is catered for in the Istanbul Convention and the UN's Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces for Women and Girls global initiative but which remains unfulfilled on Government and local authority desks.

It would be remiss of me not to speak today about the responsibility of men to end men's violence against women. There is an onus on men to end this scourge. I want to speak to the lies that we, as men, tell ourselves so that we may be absolved of blame for, or complicity in, the toxic masculine culture that many of us were formed by. In 2014, Tom Meagher wrote about the monster myth following the murder of his wife Jill in Australia in 2012. Tom Meagher challenged men to break their silence on the root societal causes of male violence against women and to no longer perpetuate a monster myth that merely places blame on evil individuals as if they operate outside the boundaries of the society in which they were formed. Last week, following the tragic murder of Ashling Murphy, we saw Tom's words enacted once again by men attempting to "other" Ashling's killer, as if he operated outside the full spectrum of men's violence against women. There was talk of a "violent monster" who must be caught. Emphasis was placed on the nationality of a suspect because that allowed us to separate or "other" the killer from the everyday. Once again, #NotAllMen came to the fore, as if that hashtag alone did not cause harm to any woman who has had to look over her shoulder in fear of a man who may approach.

To end men's violence against women we must accept that perpetrators of gender-based violence are socialised by the sexism and masculinity that typify their everyday relations and, in turn, institutionalise sexism in our culture. It is crucial that while not all men commit violence, it is almost always a man that is the perpetrator. Men's violence against women is a spectrum. It starts with what many see as harmless banter or sexist jokes and ends with women afraid and hurt in relationships, with random attacks and harassment of women on the street and with women being killed. Men's violence against women is a spectrum but to truly confront this violence, men must not only call it out but also understand that spectrum and the excuses we make to absolve ourselves from that culture. Ashling Murphy was killed by a man, albeit one who committed a monstrous act. Women all over this country are being attacked in their homes. Men must act to break the cycle, challenge it wherever it may be formed, root it out at its source and commit ourselves to never replicating it.

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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We are here today to speak about violence against women because a young woman with her whole life ahead of her was attacked and murdered in a manner that has shocked us to our core. Ashling Murphy could have lived in any community in this country. She could have been our daughter, sister or friend. The sad reality is that as women, we have grown up expecting to be on guard or feel vulnerable doing simple day-to-day tasks, whether that is walking alone at night, going for a run, waiting for a taxi or bus or sometimes just being in the presence of a man who makes us feel uncomfortable. That is the key point in all of this. Why should a woman feel less safe doing things a man would not even think twice about? Why should women have to live with an acceptable level of fear in their everyday lives?

Societal change is necessary. We need to educate boys from a young age on how their behaviour can contribute to the genuine fears and worries that women face. As legislators we must play our part and, in consultation with the various women's groups, look at what we can do to stop violence against women in every permutation in which it presents itself. I am pleased to have made changes in the Department of Social Protection that will ensure women can have immediate access to rent supplement in cases where they leave home as a result of domestic violence. When we talk about zero tolerance for violence against women, we must mean it. It must be reflected in the sentences that are handed down to perpetrators. I hope the increased awareness of violence against women that this awful crime has brought about can be used to make positive, lasting changes so that future generations of women do not feel the heavy burden of the fear of being attacked for no other reason than their gender.

Finally, my thoughts and prayers are with Ashling Murphy's family and friends at this exceptionally difficult time and with the families of all of the murdered women who have gone before her.

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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Annie Lennox sang four short and yet immeasurably powerful lines to encompass perfectly the grief of victims of sexual and violent assaults:

And so I face the wall

Turn my back against it all

How I wish I'd been unborn

Wish I wasn't living

What some people fail to understand is that the consequences and repercussions for those who experience a violent assault are multifaceted. Physical wounds will heal eventually, albeit leaving nasty permanent scars, but psychological wounds remain open, sore and exposed. More often than not, the right balm to soothe the psychic wound cannot be found and it continues to ooze throughout a person's life, manifesting in multifaceted anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders. The scale of the damage inflicted varies from one victim to the next, depending on the level of depravity.

For Ashling's grieving family and her boyfriend Ryan, today's statements are only words. An irreplaceable light has been extinguished in their lives. Meanwhile, a spotlight has been shone on this House, not just to sympathise but to act and to deliver. As I said last week, this unspeakable tragedy simply must be a catalyst for change. As the Ceann Comhairle knows, I have never been afraid of challenging the status quo, as a woman and for women, even if it meant starting uncomfortable conversations or debates. On occasion, I have been made fun of because of my outspoken views, whether they be on the status of women within the Catholic Church or, more recently, on challenging society's attitudes towards gender equality. There have been points throughout my political career when I have been accused by men, both inside and outside this House, of not understanding matters of equality and I have been mansplained to about gender equality. Like many women, I have been forced to bite my tongue for fear of being judged too shrill but that stops today. The reality is that part of the exercise of implementing some of the changes which have been correctly and admirably put forward here today is not just about listening to what women need and want; it is also about ensuring that women are present at decision-making tables right across society.

While it is true that some men might be able to understand the issues facing women, there is not one man among us who will physically feel the same shame, guilt, anxiety or sheer worthlessness that we are made to feel at times. I know what it is like to say "No" but for it to fall on deaf ears. I know what it is like to be made to feel inferior. I know what it is like to feel like prey. We are the hunted, conditioned for decades to change our route home, to text when safely home or in the taxi, to not walk alone in the dark and to dress appropriately so as not to attract unwanted attention. This has to stop. Women did not create this culture and it therefore follows that the onus should not fall on women alone to solve it. It falls to each and every one of us in this House and not just those of us who have been shouting the loudest; not just those of us who still believe there are some misogynistic articles in our Constitution which must be amended; not those of us who have repeatedly called for our family court system to be upgraded and for our criminal justice system to be improved, as well as having more robust legislation around sentencing; not just those of us who demanded that this House establish a special Oireachtas committee on gender equality; not just those of us who worked to support Safe Ireland and Airbnb to provide emergency refuge spaces to women escaping instances of domestic violence at the height of the pandemic; and not just those of us who regularly participate around meeting tables or speaking chambers with men, men and more men. We know full well what being in a minority is like, to wear that invisible brooch of inequality every single day. I do not just understand the concept of inequality and discrimination; I live it every single day, along with every other woman in this House.

Make no mistake; I am seething. I am not prepared to sit on my hands and listen to words. As a female public representative, I can call for increased action but as a woman, I am demanding it. There is too much at stake. We have reached a tipping point. It is long past time.

5:45 pm

Photo of Jennifer Carroll MacNeillJennifer Carroll MacNeill (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)
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I am glad the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, and Deputy Gannon highlighted the #NotAllMen movement that emerged last week because it is all women, and all women all the time. It has to be called out. Any of those men who were unwise enough to have their little feelings hurt in the context of the debate last week can just take a hike or spend that time thinking about how they can make the women in their community feel safer today and every day.

I want to take a moment to put on the record of the House a few names that should be remembered this month: Joyce Quinn, Miriam O'Donohue, Mandy Smyth, Gráinne Dillon, Jean Scanlon, Marie Bridgeman, Dolores McCrea, Amy Farrell, Rebecca Kinsella, Marioara Rostas, Anne Corcoran, Loredana Pricajan, Breda Waters, Veronica Vollrath, Rudo Mawere, Jane Braidwood, Jasmine McMonagle, Elżbieta Piotrowska, Urantsetseg Tserendorj, Sharon Bennett and Ashling Murphy. Those are the names of 21 women we know of who lost their lives needlessly and at the hands of a man during the month of January in the past 27 years. Reading about each of these women over the past few days, it was again clear that it does not matter what your job is, what precautions you take, what time you are out at, how bright it is or if you are in your own home. By simply existing, women's lives are at risk from men whom they know and men whom they do not know. They are at risk of being strangled to death or being stabbed not once but numerous times, often with a bread knife and in their own home. From my reading, those were the two most common ways of taking a woman's life that kept appearing across the years for those 21 women.

In my reading, I came across a piece by a person referred to only as "Ita" called "The Killing Fields of Ireland" in response to femicide that year. She wrote "And women of all ages die at the hands of men they have known, the hands of men who have fathered their children and men they have shared drinks with in the pub." That piece was written in December 1997, a quarter of a century ago, yet here we stand in 2022 having the same conversation, experiencing the same atrocities, losing more lives. Nothing seems to have changed.

I have a deep concern that, as we move out of the Covid period, when front-line services tell us that attacks at home are more frequent and severe, we will hear more about this issue in the coming years. Women continue to pay for being women with their lives, most often at the hands of those whom they know. Women pay for being a woman in lots of other ways - financially, physically, culturally and through daily fear, one which is low grade but constant and ever present. When we speak up, as we so often do, on many aspects of our lives, it is often dismissed, consciously or unconsciously, as "Ah, the women". Well, no more. The reality that this House has to face is that this must change entirely.

Photo of Cathal CroweCathal Crowe (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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I express my deepest and sincerest sympathies to Ashling Murphy's family. Ashling's beautiful, talented life was viciously taken from her around this time last week. Her death has left a devastating void in the lives of her family, boyfriend, friends and work colleagues and the little boys and girls in first class in Durrow National School. Ashling's death has also stopped the nation in its tracks. It has led to a national debate across kitchen tables and living rooms and it is happening this evening in Dáil Éireann. I listened carefully to the last few courageous contributions by female Members articulating something that happens daily in their lives. It is a story that is often brushed aside and not listened to but it has been very much listened to this evening, I hope.

The shrine outside Dáil Éireann features some very saddening and thought-provoking slogans. I have seen the slogan #NotAllMen but I saw a sign with the words, "Not All Men But All Women". I stopped and looked at it. It caught my attention for a while. Yes, most men are good men but there are some horrible men and many men who stand by silently. The real eye-opener for me in the past week has been the many conversations I have had with my mother, sisters and female friends. There are probably 2% or 3% of places where I do not feel safe. I will walk the streets of Dublin tonight to get some fresh air in my lungs after leaving the Dáil. There are probably only a few alleyways that I would not go down but I feel quite safe. It is quite the reverse for women. There are probably 2% or 3% of places in the city where they feel safe. That is perverse. It is wrong that women feel like that every night. My wife told me recently that she drives the roads with the car doors locked. I thought this bizarre until she told me the reasons she does so. She said she would not drive into car parks. I would drive anywhere or walk most places. That is how most men live. Without wishing to take from Ashling Murphy's death, it has been hugely eye-opening for a lot of young men in Ireland to hear these experiences over the past week.

These cannot just be words in the Dáil. We have heard many strong statements this evening but they have to be backed up with actions and resources. I hope the new intake of An Garda Síochána in the coming weeks can play its part. The message, "Not all men but all women", must be front and centre of this debate and our guiding light as we move forward.

I will conclude by mentioning short sentencing and early release from prison. We need to have a good look at our judicial and penal systems in Ireland. It is a kick in the face for victims and their families to see murderers and rapists walking the streets eight or nine years after the event. There have been cases in recent days which I will not mention. There are depraved cases where people get eight or nine-year sentences. That is wrong. Part of what we do going forward must be to ensure that people who engage in rotten, depraved crimes will pay for them. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.

Photo of Kathleen FunchionKathleen Funchion (Carlow-Kilkenny, Sinn Fein)
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I also extend my sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Ashling Murphy. Lots of words have been spoken since her horrific murder last Wednesday, words of anger, compassion, love and deep sadness. There are not really the right words to properly convey how deeply Ashling's murder has affected us all and shaken the whole nation. However, I would like to share some words written by Orla Muldoon, a professor of psychology, in The Irish Timeslast Friday. She wrote:

Disproportionately, year on year, the pattern is clear nationally and internationally. Men kill women, men assault women, men harass women. Not all men, not even many men. But it is nearly always men, not women, who kill women.

Ministers and Deputies have spoken of how many people have shared their stories and experiences over the past week, whether jeering, street harassment, exposure, groping and much more serious incidents of coercive control, assault and rape. All, without exception, were at the hands of men. Everyone is looking for change and for the systemic violence perpetrated by men against women to stop.

Before coming to the House today, I spoke to a friend whose sister was murdered five years ago by her partner to get a family perspective. It struck me how important it is that when a woman in a situation of domestic violence reaches out for help, that such help is there. It might be a moment where the woman gets the courage to say she does think the situation she is in is good. If help is not forthcoming at that time, it is a moment missed. It is important, therefore, that resources are available and people are sufficiently trained and know how to handle that situation. As we know, women often get to a stage where they do not believe they are in such a bad situation. When they make that brave move they need to be sure that someone has their back.

While I did not want my contribution to include a whole bunch of statistics, I do want to mention that the World Health Organization estimates that one in three women, which equates to 736 million women, is subjected to physical or sexual violence by a partner or sexual violence by a non-partner in her lifetime. That figure has remained largely unchanged in the past decade. We need to ensure that everything we have seen, with the vigils in the past week and all the words spoken here this evening, results in change and is a catalyst for change. A point that has been raised, and I welcome that it will be addressed, is that this issue does not fall to one specific Department but comes under many different areas. Some areas fall within the Department of Children, while others are for the Department of Justice. A joined-up approach is imperative.

I have been struck by many of the contributions. However, we need to ensure that this discussion results in action.

I also raise one of the recommendations the Citizens' Assembly on gender equality made for a programme relating to sexual education, relationships, the role of consent and how important that is and recognising what is, what constitutes a good and healthy relationship and gender power dynamics within relationships. It is imperative we roll out that programme. It was an excellent recommendation from that assembly and we need to see it rolled out at primary and secondary school level in an age-appropriate way. There cannot be any more excuses. Those in schools cannot feel uncomfortable. We need to provide resources and ensure it happens. We also need an updated sexual abuse and violence in Ireland report.

This has been referenced by other Deputies, but nine counties, including Carlow in my constituency, do not have women's refuges. As previous speakers indicated, we do not have the required bed space. I also echo the calls by the National Women's Council of Ireland with regard to compiling comprehensive data on the number of women suffering violence at the hands of men. It is crucial that we get this data together. I am always struck in these debates by our history in relation to women. Since the foundation of the State, we have not had a good history in this regard, in particular with the Magdalen laundries and mother and baby institutions. We cannot keep repeating mistakes and continuously have debates here during which we declare that we are shocked and outraged. We as legislators have the power to make really progressive change. It is not going to happen overnight and the response must be multifaceted. From what I heard earlier and this evening, however, the political will seems to exist across the board. We should really take that now and ensure there is action and not just words.

5:55 pm

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I understand that this debate is about violence against women in Ireland, but we must acknowledge it is a worldwide experience. UN statistics show that one in three women worldwide experiences some sort of sexual or physical violence. In line with the statistics here, it is mostly by an intimate partner. Fewer than 40% of women who experience violence seek help of any sort and 42% of women experience intimate partner violence and report an injury as a consequence of that violence. Those are the parameters in which we are having this debate.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of Urantsetseg Tserendorj. I hope I have pronounced that noble woman's name right. She was a migrant worker from Mongolia who lost her life on her way home from her work as a cleaner in a bank. She was a mother of two. It is worth mentioning her name here.

I also went into the matter this morning but I again refer to the details around the lack of space in refuges and also the housing crisis itself. There are many forms of violence against women. The lack of housing and homelessness are also forms of state violence against women. Indeed, something like 40% of women who are in homeless accommodation have suffered physical abuse. If that is a global figure and the global picture, we must ask ourselves why is it happening. This is rooted in the system of profit, the system that for generations and hundreds of years has insisted on and set the demarcation in society that women stay at home and breed children, rear them, do all the caring work relating to them and ensure that they are socialised, fed and ready to become the next generation of workers. That is what for thousands of years has put women in the dark and ensure they are not recognised as unique human beings. I quote a journalist named Fiona Vera-Gray in The Guardianwho says:

We are living in a world where women’s humanity is constantly undermined. Where what we look like is more important than what we do, and where what is done to us is more important than who we are. Research on men’s sexual aggression has shown that the denial of women’s 'human uniqueness' is a driving factor for some men who commit [violent and] sexual offences.

I really want to push the question of education and non-ethos-based sex education in our schools. It must be of that nature, otherwise we are not going to rear a generation of men and boys, and indeed girls, who understand that uniqueness of human beings.

There is also the question of why it is that women's bodies, women's shapes and women's images are used to make vast amounts of money. The pornographic industry is one of the most lucrative businesses on the planet. There is a fact that was published recently which indicates that the traffic of those accessing porn on the Internet - and it must be said that pornography on the Internet involving women is increasingly more violent and deadly in certain circumstances - from on sites that stream it is more per month than the traffic relating to Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined. That is a startling statistic and it reflects so badly on the world we live in, which is a world that undermines women's humanity. The question of culture is a big part of it here and non-consent of women is seem by some as titillating, as attractive, as a barrier to be overcome and as a challenge. Coercion is often seen as being sexy and the brutality of that cannot be overstated. Thus, we will not change the minds of men just by talking about it; we change their minds by starting with the root-and-branch causes of it.

I will finish on the role of this House. We cannot exonerate the previous Government for its failure in this area. It was mentioned in the newspapers this week, and I mentioned it several times in the previous Dáil, but what has happened to second SAVI report? The Minister's predecessor, Francis Fitzgerald MEP, replied to me in November 2017 when I asked her if she could lean on the then Taoiseach to spend the money to produce the second SAVI report. She stated:

We need up-to-date macro information on sexual and domestic violence in this country.


This matter was discussed at a Cabinet sub-committee last week. The initial scoping work has begun to determine how precisely it will be carried out.

That was almost five years ago, and a new report is almost 20 years overdue. How then do those on the Minister's side of the House explain the inadequacies in dealing with this problem if the Government cannot even produce a report?

Photo of Mick BarryMick Barry (Cork North Central, Solidarity)
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I send deep condolences to the family and friends of Ashling Murphy on behalf of myself and of the Socialist Party and Solidarity. The horrific events in Tullamore are a wake-up call to Irish society and the reaction must mark a watershed for change. The death of Savita Halappanavar was a watershed moment but only because of a struggle for change that was then waged from below. Does anyone seriously believe that Ireland's political establishment would have organised a repeal referendum were it not for the ferocious pressure they were put under to do so? Similarly, does anyone really believe a political establishment that underfunds women's refuges, presides over the 999 calls scandal and has failed to produce a SAVI report for 20 years will tackle violence against women with sufficient determination unless it is compelled to do so? For this reason, I add my voice to the call made by Reproductive rights, against Oppression Sexism and Austerity, ROSA, the socialist feminist organisation, for an emergency conference of women's groups, trade unions, student groups, LGBTQ groups and others to now launch a nationwide campaign against gender-based violence. In conclusion, International Women's Day on 8 March should be turned into a day of massive protests on the streets of this country, including strikes, to say "No more; not one more death" and to put the Government under ferocious pressure on these issues.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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As an elected Member from the Tullamore area, I was anxious that I place on the record of Dáil Éireann the ongoing condolences of the people of Laois-Offaly to Ashling Murphy's parents, Ray and Kathleen, her sister, Amy, her brother, Cathal, her boyfriend, Ryan, and the extended Murphy and Leonard families. We know an act of depravity has robbed us of one of our own; one reared in the best of Irish traditions by decent, solid people and communities who taught Ashling to love life and live it to the full, which she most definitely did, as should we all. Initially in these statements and the debate later, we should remember Ashling for the women she was. We should remember her and all those who grieve her terrible loss. She was a musician, a teacher and a mentor. We know she was kind, caring, generous and talented.

She was a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a niece, cousin, friend, a colleague and a proud Offaly woman. Today, in this Chamber, in addition to our remembrance of her, we have to take action. After her funeral yesterday, today should be the first day of action for Ashling.

We have to do what we can, insofar as we can, to ensure the likes of this may not happen again. It must start with education. I am a father of two boys and two girls. I have a responsibility as a father but also now as a legislator to ensure young boys and men are better educated. I have a responsibility to know that we must better protect young girls and women. We, the elected members of Dáil Éireann, have to commit to ensure that we work day and night so that Ashling Murphy is never forgotten. We have great pride in Offaly in saying that "the faithful never die". Our footballers, hurlers and camogie teams have a never say die attitude. It is incumbent on us to make sure that Ashling Murphy's legacy never dies.

I do not have all the answers; nor does any individual in this Chamber. I am no angel or saint but I know that politics cannot be the barrier to working together on these issues and on this matter. We have a duty to set aside politics and respond to the calls of the people of Ireland. In my lifetime, I have seen the deaths of Veronica Guerin and Savita Halappanavar precipitate change. I have seen in the past week, as we all have, our country and its society crying out for Ashling Murphy's death to precipitate a change in men's attitudes and behaviour towards, about and to women. Maybe then girls and women can freely walk the canal line in Tullamore, named Fiona's Way, or whatever beauty spot it is in any town or village, in whatever part of this beautiful countryside that is available to us all. Maybe then women and girls can take a stroll, walk or jog like me - like a man - without any fear. When that is the case and, hopefully, it will be, we will at least know that Ashling Murphy's death was the day that men got the message and the day that women got the equality they deserve, which to our shame unfortunately is long overdue.

6:05 pm

Photo of Emer HigginsEmer Higgins (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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The events of the past week have had a profound impact on our country. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere condolences to Ashling's family and to her boyfriend, friends, colleagues and all who knew and loved her. I hope that they take some solace from knowing that a nation stands behind them and that at vigils up and down the country people came together to share their heartbreak and anger. Many people have talked about this as a watershed moment and I truly hope that is right because too many women have tragically died from violence. This week, too many families had wounds reopened and too many communities, including my own in Lucan, relived the trauma of losing a woman to violence.

There is a spectrum of misogyny and abuse towards women. On one end of it, there is catcalling and lad banter, while on the other sits physical abuse, rape and murder. We need to acknowledge that all these actions are connected and that both ends of that spectrum are fuelled by a lack of respect and misogynistic attitudes towards women and girls. Violence against women finds its roots in the normalisation of actions and comments that objectify and disrespect women and girls every single day in our WhatsApp groups, locker rooms, media and politics. It is on our streets and along our canals. While the murder of a woman may be rare, it is not rare enough. As has been said all too many times, it is not all men but it is all women. Sadly, all women have a story to tell of feeling uncomfortable, demeaned, unsafe, scared, threatened and fearful. The fact that all women can relate to these experiences tells us all we need to know about the culture of disrespect towards women and violence against them.

We need action to change that in our homes, classrooms, workplaces, WhatsApp groups and among our friends and families. We also need action at the top among our lawmakers and enforcers. The Minister, Deputy McEntee, has today outlined new laws that will make stalking and choking stand-alone offences, in addition to the new third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, which will be our most ambitious yet and will focus on prevention, protection, prosecution and policies. It will have an overarching ambition to make sure that the punishment fits the crime because that is how we get zero tolerance.

We should not know Ashling Murphy's name. We should not now recognise her face because of media coverage, but we do. She tragically joins a long and shameful list of women who have died violently at the hands of men. We cannot let another year go by in which we look back at these women's lives and remember them only for how they died. Let this be the year we remember the change they sparked in Irish society. Let this be the year we all do better.

Photo of Jim O'CallaghanJim O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay South, Fianna Fail)
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The killing of Ashling Murphy was not just a brutal crime that shocked the whole nation. It was also an event that has highlighted the fear that exists among women in our society for their personal safety. The shocking killing of Ashling Murphy has enabled and encouraged women to talk openly about that fear. More important, it has forced society to listen to that fear. I regret to say that it should not have required the brutal murder of Ashling Murphy in order for the very real fears of women to get a thorough and appropriate response.

Before we start talking about advancing solutions, we have to identify the problem, which is that we continue to see in Ireland and elsewhere violence being perpetrated against women and women being fearful because of the threat of that violence. We need to recognise that this is a problem that is not to be measured simply by the number of women who are killed or go missing each year. It also has to be measured through other measurements. It should be measured by the low-level assaults perpetrated on women by men, most of which go unreported; it should be measured by the violence within the home, most of which goes unreported; it should be measured by the creepy harassment that women have to put up with from men, which is never really something that men are exposed to; and it should be measured by the intimidatory control that can be exerted on women through the physical strength some men have.

We also need to recognise that the violence perpetrated against women mostly happens when a man attacks a woman with whom he is in a relationship because he believes he should be able to assert control over that woman. It also happens when men who encounter a woman they do not know believe that the use of intimidation or violence is acceptable in order to control or impose themselves on that woman. Regrettably, some men, in Ireland and elsewhere, believe that women should be controlled and submissive to men and that violence is an acceptable way of achieving those aims. That requires a change in culture and attitude on the part of Irishmen.

We also need to acknowledge that while it is not just a legislative response that is required, a legislative and criminal justice response is appropriate. A small group of men in Irish society believe that it is acceptable to exert and impose violence upon women. If we are to deal with this legislatively, we need to start at a low level, where we come down very strongly on low-level harassment and low-level assaults and criminalise them to a greater extent than we have to date.

6:15 pm

Photo of Rose Conway-WalshRose Conway-Walsh (Mayo, Sinn Fein)
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I too extend my condolences to the Murphy family on the loss of Ashling Murphy. The whole country has been united in sorrow and anger over the past week. That must mean something and it must count for something. We have to remember, as has been stated, that Ashling is one of 244 women who have died violently since 1966 and we have to ask ourselves why, in 2022, there is so much left to do. The truth is that we have not prioritised addressing violence against women. We must do so in a serious way.

I listened intently to the Minister's contribution. I think she is genuine in her approach and in what she is setting out to do. I am also encouraged regarding the reaction across the political divide. I did not know what to expect coming in here. I am encouraged that there is a willingness and openness to work together on this. If there needs to be one legacy from Ashling, it should be that we do that and play our part. Each of us has a part of play in terms of legislation and of making sure that the things women are asking us to change are changed here and now.

I remember today all the lives cut short because of violence and domestic violence. We often fail to remember the women who have suffered in our communities. The data is important because the violence against and abuse of women is so hidden. We know that only about 25% of women ever seek help and that so much of it goes unreported. Again, we have to ask why. The reason is that women do not feel that they will get the support they need. From all these discussions, including today, there will be a huge increase in the number of women coming forward. I encourage women to come forward to get support and help. I ask the Minister to make sure that the resources are there for all those calls to be answered and for women to get the help they need in a meaningful way.

We have asked for years for a Minister solely in charge and we all agree the way forward is a key leadership role in Cabinet. Otherwise, things will not happen. Everybody has been responsible and nobody has been responsible for many of the things that have happened and that should have been addressed before they happened.

I acknowledge what Deputy Stanton did with regard to coercive control. Deputy Bacik is here. We worked on this matter together. That was a good example of working on a cross-party basis in the Seanad with the Civic Engagement Group. I do not want to start naming individuals because I know that I will leave somebody out, but Colette Kelleher comes to mind. She is no longer in the Seanad. I know, and Deputy Bacik will know, that when Deputy Stanton, as a Minister of State, was trying to bring that forward, he encountered blocks. The Minister will meet with blocks in the Civil Service of people saying that it cannot be done or it cannot be done in a certain way. The Minister has the collective mandate of all of us in this Chamber to get rid of those blocks and make sure that we make a difference.

I want to remember Sandra Collins today and I want to appeal to people. Sandra has not been seen since December 2000. She is one of the missing women. The Garda file on her case remains open. The family accept that she is no longer with us; all they want is for her body to be returned. I appeal again today for that to be happen.

Regarding perpetrators of violence who are former partners and husbands, will the Minister please do something to make sure that children are not forced to meet such perpetrators? There are too many judgments being made where it is known that there have been violent relationships and where the children of perpetrators of violence are made to go and meet those same people.

There are many things we can do. I feel encouraged by the commitments today. We will work together, and it is our duty to do so. Can we bring this matter back onto the floor of the House every two months, even for this year, in order to make sure that we measure the commitments made today in terms of strategy and other things? We should continuously measure that these things are being done. We cannot afford to just let this slide.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Berry is sharing with Deputy Lowry.

Photo of Cathal BerryCathal Berry (Kildare South, Independent)
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Good evening, Minister. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I wish it was taking place under different circumstances. I convey my heartfelt sympathies to the Murphy family, the school community in Durrow and the members of the wider Offaly community, all of whom have been traumatised by the horrendous events of recent days.

The 33rd Dáil will always be remembered for being the pandemic Parliament. Over time, however, we will be judged by how we address a different epidemic in this country, namely, that of violence against women. That epidemic has persisted and there appears to be no vaccine.

I was struck by the images of Ashling's seven-year-old schoolchildren at the funeral yesterday. A good way to memorialise and respect the memory of Ashling would be to ensure those children grow up in a different Ireland than the one we had last week and that they never have to experience intimidation, threats, assaults or fear for being a woman or a girl. Ashling has done her bit in that regard. It now falls to us to do our bit as well.

We should be addressing this issue from two directions: first, from a structural point of view; and, second, from a behavioural point of view. From a structural point of view, I take the Minister's point that it is not exclusively a criminal justice issue, but it is a major factor and we need to reform our criminal justice system. Our bail laws, one could argue, are a joke. There are people who have been charged with serious crimes and are out on the street having paid €200 bail, which is unacceptable. A 20-year minimum sentence for murder does not cut it any more and does not have the deterrent value it used to have. They get out after 14 years with six years suspended. We need life for life. It should be a 40-year minimum sentence for murder. That is the appropriate deterrent that is required.

We need to fund our refuge system. It is incredible that we still have counties that do not have women's refuges. We also need more active and visible policing on our streets and in our communities. We are blessed in this country that we have seasoned investigators who can retrospectively investigate crimes and prosecute the perpetrators, but would it not be so much better if we had more police who could proactively prevent and deter crimes from happening in the first place?

The behavioural piece is much more nuanced and difficult to sort. How will we address it? First, we have to accept and recognise that we have a problem and that we have a sizable minority of men in this country with unhealthy attitudes towards women. I agree with some other contributors that we have to get in early and educate in the context of how appropriate behaviour is taught in primary and secondary schools. As men, we have to call out and confront any inappropriate behaviours we see. The standards we walk by are the standards we accept.

We have a lot of work to do to solve this problem. The structural issues are the responsibility of the Minister and the Government but the behavioural issues are the responsibility of us all. Changing culture is a massive undertaking and sometimes it is hard to know where to start. It is appropriate that I finish with the words of a gentleman who is probably rarely quoted in this Chamber. It is none other than Michael Jackson. His words are fitting:

I'm starting with the man in the mirror

I'm asking him to change his ways.

Photo of Michael LowryMichael Lowry (Tipperary, Independent)
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I am saddened to hear at first-hand details of the reality of life as a woman, as articulated with sincerity and passion by our female colleagues in this Chamber.

The events of last week plunged the entire country into sadness and despair. People across Ireland and beyond were shocked, repulsed and, understandably, panicked by the senseless killing of a young, vibrant and talented woman. Within hours, the shock turned to anger and the panic turned to fury. The horror of what took place has led to demands that what happened to Ashling Murphy on that canal path must never be allowed to happen again. It is impossible to disagree with such reactions. Violence in any form is not acceptable. Recent years in Ireland have seen an inexorable rise in violent crime. Men, women and children have lost their lives in despicable circumstances, some of them killed by strangers and others by trusted family members. In an ideal world, we would eradicate violence but, unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world. The safety of our fellow human beings can never be guaranteed, regardless of what laws and actions are put in place. That does not mean there is nothing we can do to prevent a repeat of what happened to Ashling and the hundreds before her.

Violence of all types has been played out to such an extent on our TV screens in recent years that people have become almost immune to it. Familiar actors on screens in our kitchens and living rooms carry out domestic, sexual and gender-based violence on a nightly basis. Children and vulnerable adults are exposed to such an extent that they are no longer abhorred by it. They watch it with their families. Subconsciously, they begin to accept it as normal. This is fuelled by the Internet and social media. One would have to say that access to pornography for young kids is detrimental to the formation of a proper attitude. With this combination, the formative minds of our young people are distorted and desensitised to violence and inappropriate standards of behaviour. The first step that must be taken to address this is to educate our children that violence, cruelty, oppression and murder are not normal and will not be tolerated. This education must start primarily in the home, in our schools, on our sports fields and in our youth activities. Parents, teachers and mentors must strive to effectively instil the need for respect and equality in our children; respect and equality for all, regardless of gender, age, ethnic background, colour or creed. This education should and must continue into our third level educational facilities. It must then continue into our workplaces and social outlets. Respect and responsibility must become a normal part of everyday life. This can only happen if it starts from the bottom up and is taught from an early age.

Women are not treated equally in many situations. The inequality may be less blatant than it was in the past but it remains. It remains ingrained in the mentality of many men and it remains a heavy burden for many women. Similarly, it must be acknowledged that gender equality must apply across the board. The stereotyping of both men and women must end. The use of inappropriate behaviour by men must be called out. Shallow condemnation of women, who are all too often accused of instigating the crimes carried out against them, belongs to a different era.

From a judicial perspective, the public needs to know that justice will be done. When a perpetrator of violence is brought to justice, the sentence handed down must be the sentence served. Nothing less is tolerable. This is just one of the ways in which the Government can bring about positive change.

I welcome the fact that prior to this tragedy, the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, and the Government carried out many months of extensive work on legislation to address all forms of gender-based violence. That legislation is due to come before this House shortly. It is needed and demanded. We must enact new, robust laws. We must fully resource our enforcement agencies and implement the full rigours of the law.

6:25 pm

Photo of John McGuinnessJohn McGuinness (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)
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I join with all other Members of this House, and indeed those beyond the House, who have expressed their sympathies to Ashling's parents, family, extended family, school community and general community to say how sorry we are that she died in such a way, in such horrific circumstances. I hope this debate and all that is being said here will result in action being taken. It is very sad to see a woman who had contributed so much in her life having that life stolen from her when she could have contributed an awful lot more. She was so loved, as we have seen on our television screens and across the media.

The challenge is for us. I have witnessed debates in this House that have taken place in similar circumstances, responding to outrageous, horrific acts. I have seen little done after the debate has died down and the focus of the public has moved elsewhere. I ask Members of this House to reflect on what they have said here today and to ensure that action follows. Deputy Conway-Walsh is right that we need to ensure we come back to these debates again.

I would like to know about the Grace case and the 47 others. I would like to know about JoJo Dollard. I would like to know what is happening to those people who burned down a lady's house with her in it. I am talking about events in my own constituency. Those are horrific acts and yet they go unpunished. It gives licence to the next individual to do something else, something even worse. As a society, we tend to tolerate it. It seems as if we are numb to any sort of big reaction. I am afraid the eyes of the country and the world are on us and if we do not do something to ensure that the existing laws are implemented, we are failing society. How many times have we discussed children being abused? How often have we discussed the elderly being abused in care homes and care settings? How many times have different women from different parts of the country been raped and had their lives ruined? We have seen the death of Shane O'Farrell, a matter I have raised in this House. That brings grief to a mother, a sister and a family. We cannot overlook that but what has happened is we have overlooked it. The laws are there. The agencies are there. What are they doing with the current laws? I have confidence that the Minister, Deputy McEntee, will bring us to a different level in exercising the law, implementing it and taking action. It is on that we will be judged.

Photo of Neasa HouriganNeasa Hourigan (Dublin Central, Green Party)
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I welcome the debate around this issue and the statements of our Ministers on the changes in direction that may be undertaken as regards gender-based violence in 2022. It was important to include an audit of Department actions on this issue in the programme for Government. I know how seriously the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, and the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, took that work and I absolutely can see the benefit of a new direction. However, in that context, I would like to draw attention to the many migrant women who have suffered gender-based violence or have been victims of femicide. If we are to move to a more justice-based model on gender-based violence, we should make sure we do not lose the human rights aspect and focus. Migrant women are over-represented in the statistics on femicide. The State has been warned that the current initiatives around gender-based violence are failing to reach migrant women and that their immigration status can sometimes be used as a tool of control. It can lock them into violent situations. Any State strategy on this must recognise the particular vulnerability of migrant women if it is to succeed in stopping femicide and gender-based violence in Ireland. Otherwise some women will continue to be left behind.

I really want the experience of Urantsetseg Tserendorj to be mentioned on the Official Report of the Dáil today. She was a mother of two from my own constituency. Tomorrow is the first anniversary of her life being taken from her. She died a horrific death last year, just one month before Sarah Everard, whose name the whole world learned, died in London.

Urantsetseg Tserendorj was a cleaner. She was returning from work when she was stabbed in the International Financial Services Centre, IFSC. Her family had to travel from Mongolia during a pandemic to say goodbye to her. What her family has endured this year is really horrific. That story is also part of our nation's understanding of gender-based violence.

If we are to proceed now with a renewed commitment to this area, I ask for the following issues to be included and a particular focus placed on vulnerable women. Migrant women must be central to any strategy as they are particularly vulnerable. Migrant women have the right to be safe. Sex workers need to be included in any strategy. We cannot afford to continue with any ideas of good or bad victims of violence based on misogynistic ideas of morality around how women should behave or what is acceptable to us. Sex workers have the right to be safe too.

Women, girls and all minorities should be supported to reclaim their streets and freedoms. It is simply not good enough that local authorities, public transport companies etc. expect women to curtail their freedoms and movements to protect themselves instead of providing adequate lighting and security and active and passive surveillance in order to ensure that public spaces, facilities, parks and transport are safe for everyone at all times. We are not a minority; women are the public. While I hope to have many more debates in this House on the issue of eradicating gender violence, I hope it is never again in the circumstances in which we find ourselves this week.

6:35 pm

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Like everybody else, I offer my deepest simply to Ashling's family and, indeed, the whole community, who have suffered enormously. The most important thing we could do now as a community is to make sure that her family continue to be supported at this very difficult time. The total and absolute devastation and what they had to face is just unbelievable. Our support and that of the community is very important. She was a wonderful person - a brilliant and caring teacher so obviously and clearly loved by all her family, friends and pupils. One important thing I learned about is the hugely supportive community that is around her in Tullamore and in the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, GAA and camogie clubs. That is really fantastic and I know it brought hope to that family and to the whole country.

I listened to people like Orla O'Connor from the National Women's Council talk about zero tolerance for misogyny and sexism, support in schools for changes in programmes and so on, dealing with issues in third level, dealing with sporting organisations and, as my colleague said, creating safer public places by installing CCTV in walks which are not safe at times and having proper public lighting, more Garda patrols and better footpaths. They are the small little things that communities can help with.

I also wish to commend the Drogheda Dolls in my area, which organised a vigil, and Women's Aid, in particular. There was huge support and acknowledgement publicly in Ardee, Dundalk, Drogheda and Bettystown of the devastation and concerns raised.

I will say one very important thing, which I said in this Chamber last year during the debate on domestic violence. Since 1996, 203 women and 16 children have died as a result of domestic violence. Three of those women died in 2020. That was in the Women's Aid annual report last year. There were 290,000 visits to the Women's Aid website, which concerns an awful lot of people. There were 24,800 contacts about emotional, physical and sexual abuse. That was up 43% on the previous year. There were 709 murder threats, 148 pregnant women abused and 28 miscarriages. It is not good enough. It is time for change. This House will act collectively.

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)
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Since 1996, 244 women have been murdered by men in Ireland. The Minister said Ashling Murphy's fatal assault must be the watershed moment. I know the Government is determined to tackle this issue. The Minister herself said she is taking action for change.

According to Safe Ireland, when Ireland was at the height of its second level 5 lockdown, more than 2,180 women and 600 children received support from a dedicated domestic violence service. This is an increase of 40%. The lack of refuge places and transitional housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence must be urgently addressed. In the 26 counties, nine have no refuge at all and as I said to the Taoiseach today, County Carlow is one of them.

Let me highlight one case as an example of what is happening. Last weekend, a woman and her children came for help. She had to return to a violent situation because there was no emergency accommodation for her in Carlow. She was forced to return to a violent situation. She had no choice.

Last November, I called for the urgent completion of the Tusla review of emergency accommodation nationwide. It is vital now that we have joined up thinking across the different agencies and Departments to tackle the problem. I was delighted to hear today that all parties are coming together to work on this. We also need to look at local authority involvement. There is no national strategy for them to deal with these issues. There is no dedicated line to contact anyone and no support on evenings or weekends. This is a national crisis that must be sorted and acted upon.

I want to compliment Amber Women's Refuge in Kilkenny and Carlow Women's Aid, which although under-resourced provide vital services. This issue needs more support now, however. Your heart would break when a family comes to you and you actually cannot help them because of a lack of resources.

Since last week, there have been conversations about women taking more self-defence classes and carrying pepper spray. I even got one email from a man about guns. The answer is not for women to bear the burden, however. The answer is to make our places safe where they are not safe. We must create them. I join all the women who contacted me this week in calling for change - those who work with victims of violence, those who like myself have daughters and those who are victims. If we are not that woman, we know her and see her. We have to listen to her and save her. Now must be the time. We have had enough. Enough is enough. I thank the Minister.

Photo of Joe CareyJoe Carey (Clare, Fine Gael)
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Our next slot is the Rural Independent Group. Deputy Nolan will be followed by Deputy Mattie McGrath.

Photo of Carol NolanCarol Nolan (Laois-Offaly, Independent)
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As a Teachta Dála, I have the great honour of representing the great people of counties Offaly and Laois. Our hearts have been broken by the tragic murder of Ashling Murphy on this day last week. It was most certainly the darkest week in my county of Offaly. It was horrendous. People are still shocked and appalled by what happened.

Ashling was loved and respected in equal measure and her absence has opened a wound in the heart of the Murphy family and in the wider Offaly community. The family have asked for privacy and the space to grieve in their own way at this difficult time and I intend to respect that request. Our sorrow has been expressed. Our tears have fallen and our prayers have been sent.

Action has been committed to but now we must ensure that action happens. We need much tougher laws to punish this sort of horrendous behaviour to keep people safe in society. I believe we can achieve that by working together in a united way as politicians and legislators because that is what we now need to do urgently.

While Ashling's family, her partner Ryan and her friends must now walk the path they have been forced onto through no wish or desire of their own, I can tell them that the communities of Tullamore and Kilcormac Killoughey, along with many other surrounding communities, will stand with them in this difficult time and continue to envelope them in their love and support. When they call, we will be ready.

Violence against women is a scourge in our society. It has tormented women in every culture and pursued them like a dark shadow, determined to keep them in the hidden places of fear and control. Despite this, there have always been those who are ready to fight back at the personal, cultural, institutional and political level. That is a task which should and, indeed, as I said earlier, can unite us all.

Our country and our political discourse will not benefit from demonising men or reducing women to passive spectators in their own fate. Women have a powerful sense of their own agency and we need to make sure that this is appreciated and acted upon. In more specific terms, I remain deeply frustrated by the fact that there is not a single domestic violence refuge in County Offaly. I feel this is a gross betrayal of women and their families that must be urgently addressed.

I will conclude by saying that we just cannot allow this situation to continue. We need to address the issues and to move forward together in partnership and in collaboration, not in bitterness or in division.

6:45 pm

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Before I begin I want to pay tribute and respects to the late Ashling Murphy, whose most precious life was stolen from her so cruelly and so brutally almost one week ago. Many of us here have spent the week learning about who Ashling Murphy was. She was a young woman. She was a teacher. She was a musician. She was a daughter, a sister, a friend and mentor to many, a young woman with her whole life ahead of her. Ashling was known all over the country for a musical talent. She toured Ireland and the UK with Comhaltas as a member of the prestigious National Folk Orchestra. Indeed, she often crossed paths with my own daughters through their musical involvement in fleadhanna cheoil and for her love for the Irish music and dance. They have known each other through the years. I would like to pay tribute to the whole Comhaltas family, to the former Seanadóir, Labhrás Ó Murchú, and to his bean chéile Una. They were heartbroken at the news and they loved her. My daughters have spoken this week of Ashling’s talent, her passion and her love for Irish traditional music. It is important that we pay tribute to her for the talented musician she was. It is also important that we remember Ashling as a brilliant musician, not only as a victim of such an unthinkable murder.

On my own behalf, as well as on behalf of my colleagues in the Rural Independent Group, our deepest condolences go out to her parents, Raymond and Kathleen, to her brother Cathal, to her sister and best friend Amy and to her boyfriend Ryan Casey. Our hearts break for her family, for her many friends, for the community in which she lived in Ireland, for the traditional music and Comhaltas community, for camogie and GAA, for the students and teaching staff who worked with her in Durrow National School and for all who mourn her loss at this time. A beautiful life gone far too soon. As my daughter, Máirín, remarked during the week, there will be tunes in heaven upon Ashling’s arrival. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam uasal ceolmhar.

Ashling's most brutal end has shocked the nation and has had a profound impact on the entire country but on women in particular. A beautiful young woman who had her life ended as she went for a run on a public path has left us all with a deep sense of shock. This must be a watershed moment for violence against women. It is just too horrific. As I said, women and all citizens are entitled to live in safety. It is time that we address the light-touch justice system that is leading to a society where women are afraid to walk down the street, are afraid to go for a run and are afraid to be alone.

Far too often, we witness cases in our judicial system where violent crimes, such as common assault, in which those who are repeat offenders get bail numerous times. They get free legal aid numerous times. I raise the whole area of tagging. It would be much easier to find these people with numerous records or criminal convictions if they were tagged. It is a no-brainer but there is a huge resistance to it. I hope that the Minister will break the resistance that seems to be present in the justice system. Simply, people can get free legal aid numerous times. I believe in two or three strikes and you are out. I go by the premise of innocent until proven guilty and we must provide that. However, where there are dozens and dozens of convictions, where there are umpteen instances of getting bail and where there are dozen crimes committed while on bail, it is shocking. We must stamp this out of society, because it has no place in this country. We must get real here. There are problems and there are issues. We must stand up and be counted and deal with the issues that are glaring in front of us.

Photo of Joe CareyJoe Carey (Clare, Fine Gael)
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Our next slot is the Independent Group. I call Deputies Connolly, Joan Collins and Harkin.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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At the outset, I want to extend my sympathy to the parents, to the brother and sister, to the boyfriend, to the extended family of Ashling Murphy and to the community. Like many men and women in this country, I have participated in vigils and have shown solidarity. That is appropriate and it is the human thing to do. However, in doing that we also have an extra duty as legislators and elected Members to ensure that we make Ireland safe, not just for women but for all of us.

I am here tonight with just under two minutes. In that time, I want to put focus on the number of times that we have stood here as women, and indeed my male colleagues, to give statements on violence against women. There have been statements but little action. I know that that Minister has taken a personal interest and I pay tribute to that. However, the numbers speak for themselves in our failure.

We are looking at Ashling Murphy's death as a watershed. I come from the city where Manuela Riedo in 2007 at 17 years of age. She had been barely a wet day in the country. That was to be watershed. That was ten years after task force on violence against women in 1997. It was ten years afterwards and that was to be a watershed. That followed on from Women's Aid in 1996, which put extraordinary pressure while on a shoestring budget on the Government at that time to produce this. That was produced.

In that time since 1996, the figures that are being used is that 244 women have lost their lives. Indeed, as has been mentioned already, a year tomorrow will mark the death of a young woman from Mongolia. I will not try to pronounce her name out of respect to the woman who was stabbed in the neck by a 14-year-old boy. She subsequently died on 3 February 2021. She deserves remembering, as do all other the faces since who have died. There are at least seven, not to mention the women and children who have suffered extraordinary violence and injury.

We ask ourselves: what are we doing? Where is the refuge report that was promised? Where is the national strategy that was promised to be published before Christmas? These are the specific questions that need to be asked. It is no longer acceptable that we got an answer last October to say that is would be published in the next few weeks. It has not been.

I will come back in later on the other motion.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change)
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The loss of the life of a young woman, Ashling Murphy, has been met with a sense of shock, outrage and an outpouring of support and sympathy on a national level. So it should be. It appears that Ashling Murphy was killed in a random act of violence by a possibly deranged individual. I want to express my solidarity and sympathy with the family, her partner and the community.

I also want to raise the specific issues, even though I have only two minutes, of an attack three weeks ago on a young woman in Ballyfermot, in my constituency of Dublin South-Central. This young woman was the victim of vicious assault by a group of young men. This was no random act. It was premeditated, planned and followed years of verbal abuse and harassment by this gang of thugs in the area. She was travelling by bus from Liffey Valley to Ballyfermot, where it was reported that she was subjected to abuse by a man who was known to her and who was also on the bus. It appears that he then called his so-called mates, who then waited for the bus while armed with sticks, bars and knives. This man joined the group of men where they beat her up badly. As a consequence of the vicious assault that followed, this woman may lose the sight in her right eye.

Two individuals who have been arrested for this outrage have been released on bail and are free now in the community. A number of questions have to be raised. Why did this young woman and her family not report the years of abuse and harassment to the Garda? Maybe they did, but the consequences ended up on 30 December 2021. The answer to me is simple. People do not think that these issues will be taken seriously by the Garda. This issue needs to be addressed. We have reports of 3,000 cancelled calls to An Garda Síochána in relation to domestic violence during the lockdown. We need to change this culture. People should feel confident in reporting abuse and harassment and should feel confident that it will be taken seriously and dealt with. Changing the culture in An Garda Síochána is crucial in that.

Photo of Marian HarkinMarian Harkin (Sligo-Leitrim, Independent)
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Thousands of words have been written and millions have been spoken, as we all try to grapple with the cruel and shocking murder of Ashling Murphy. I want to extend my most sincere sympathy to her family, partner, friends and the wider community in Tullamore.

Over the last few days, many women have huddled and spoken quietly to family and friends. Many have walked silently, carrying lighted candles. Others have scoured social media for any news. This is because this tragic murder has burrowed its way into the marrow of our very bones. We might ask, “Why?” There have been so many other unspeakable attacks and killings of women in Ireland. Why now? I think that one of the answers to that question was clearly expressed by the hashtag, "She was just going for a run". That is a simple, everyday thing that so many women do. On with the runners and out the door. However, women know that it is not that simple. We look out and might think it is getting a bit close to dusk or that the area where I run under the trees is a bit dark. I might decide to move over to the other side of the road where it is lit.

I might ring someone to come out with me because there is safety in numbers. It goes on and on, with those kinds of thoughts just flitting through our minds. They all boil down to one thing - what is the safest thing to do? In truth, those thoughts are not always at the forefront of our minds but they are always there. They are hardwired into our brains. That is one of the reasons shock waves spread right across the country. What happened to young, talented, beautiful Ashling Murphy can happen to any woman and we know it. For the women terrorised in their own homes, the teenage girls who have stopped cycling to school because of the demeaning comments of passers-by, including teenage boys and adult males, and for all women, we in this House must ensure we have resourced strategies, implemented policies and appropriate legislation so women feel, and are, safe in Ireland.

6:55 pm

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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I thank all colleagues for their contributions. Much has been said tonight so I will try to be concise in my response. I thank many of my colleagues for sharing their experiences. We are not talking about something that is happening to other people. This is something we all go through and it is important to allow people to share their experience, so I thank colleagues for that. I also thank them for their views on what we can collectively do next to try to deal with this issue and awful events like the murder of Ashling and other women, and the abuse of so many others. We must ensure there is change and that we work together to bring about that change. I have said many times that this is an issue we will look back on in years to come and ask ourselves how we let it go on and how we tolerated this type of violence and abuse for so long. I really believe that. As many have said this evening, no more.

There are two things we have to look at in our approach. Many colleagues have asked what we can do ourselves. It is about each and every one of us taking collective responsibility and asking that question when we see misogyny or sexism, when there is a microaggression, as Deputy Bacik put it, and when we see abuse or even actual violence. What do we do in that situation? Do we turn the other way, excuse ourselves or call it out every time we see it? I will certainly come away from today's debate asking myself how I, as an individual and a citizen, can play my part in making sure this ends, and I am sure everyone else will too.

Second, as legislators we must ensure we come together as a Government and a Dáil, working with our State agencies, Departments, the community and voluntary sector, victims and all our community to make sure the laws we have are robust. As Deputy McGuinness pointed out, these laws must be strong and clear enough that they work as they are supposed to and we must also bring forward new laws and policies to deal with these issues.

As Minister for Justice, I reaffirm my commitment to dealing with this in a number of ways. Many have spoken about the fact that women do not come forward when they are attacked. They do not think they will be listened to or supported and the criminal justice system does not welcome them. The work I am doing on Supporting a Victim's Journey identifies 52 actions, some of which have already been implemented and others that are in train or towards which we are working, to ensure the criminal justice system is victim-focused. That way, when those vulnerable persons come forward and take that difficult step, that support will be there. Most important, from the very outset, members of An Garda Síochána, the health service and others must be educated in working with, supporting and helping these people through their journey.

It is also about making sure we are properly resourced. We have a budget of €2 billion for An Garda Síochána this year and will have additional recruits. Some 120 gardaí came out of Templemore this week and we are on track, thankfully, to have another 800 this year. We need to make sure they have the resources to do their jobs and work within our communities. We need them on the ground but they also need technology and strong laws to be able to carry out their work.

As was mentioned, we must make sure our family justice system works. Often, a criminal trial will happen at the same time as a civil trial around access to children and those involved do not discuss the cases or connect with each other. We need to make sure that is addressed and the family structure in the courts is changed. We are working on that with a new Bill but we also need to provide the ancillary supports that are so often needed to support vulnerable persons. We need to ensure the resources and supports are there and make sure every person who needs access to a refuge can get it and that it is available to them. I again commit, as will the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, to making sure every woman who needs a space will get one. We are working on a new structure to deliver that as soon as possible and properly resource it.

Bringing all of this together is our new national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. It is not the first strategy but builds on the previous two. I acknowledged that a lot of work has been done in previous years by previous Ministers and Dáileanna, as well as community and voluntary sector organisations and individuals who have driven this. We need to build on that work and make sure it is the best and most ambitious plan we have had to date. That means making sure it has clear timelines and actions, that we know exactly who is to carry out those actions and that it is properly resourced. I commit that when we publish this strategy, all those things will be set out very clearly. There must also be clear oversight from the Department of the Taoiseach, the Dáil, the Seanad, the Joint Committee on Justice and other committees, in order to make sure we carry out our role.

As I have said, it is not just about the justice sector. It is about so many other elements of our society. It is about education in our schools, including primary school, secondary school, third level institutions and further education.

This issue also applies to our homes. I think of my almost nine-month-old son. Like most people, I think about what he will look like when he gets older, what work he will do, whether he will have a girlfriend or boyfriend and whether he will get married or have children. In the last week I have promised myself that, no matter what or who he is, he will respect women, call out these types of inequalities and stand up when he sees this type of behaviour in the future. We all have to do that.

We also need national campaigns in order that these conversations are constantly on the airwaves, in our newspapers, on social media channels and elsewhere. It is about making sure that everything we do is backed up by evidence and real lived experiences. We need to gather that information and make sure it improves our laws and policies, as well as the experience for victims and survivors. Many Deputies mentioned the SAVI report and the upcoming sexual violence survey, SVS. I reassure the House that there is no delay with that. It is not that it is not being resourced or prioritised. From the outset, it was made clear that it would take time, and five years was the timeframe given back in 2018 when it was started. A lot of detailed and very sensitive information must be gathered. There have been consultations and there must be multiple other consultations to look at how things change over time. When I was in the Department of Health, the longitudinal ageing study carried out by Professor Rose Anne Kenny took ten years. That is obviously a slightly different type of survey but this type of data gathering takes time. I reassure people that the report is on time and will be delivered by next year, as we had set out.

There is a lot of work to do, as we all appreciate. However, it is very clear from all our contributions that we are all on the same page and want to achieve the same thing, that is, zero tolerance of any kind of violence or abuse against women. I look forward to working with colleagues to make sure we can reach that end goal. I again offer my deepest condolences not just to the Murphy family but to all families who are impacted by violence and those who are going through any type of abuse. I acknowledge them. We are thinking of them at all times with everything we do.