Monday, 8 March 2021
International Women's Day: Statements
I will be super quick because I want to give my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, a very good period to discuss this very important topic. I am also delighted that the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, is also here.
I want to touch on two very important issues that I am very passionate about. One is the free contraception scheme for women aged 17 to 25 years that was promised in the programme for Government. Personally, I would prefer universal access to free contraception as recommended by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution but this limited scheme is a good start. I would like the Minister for Health and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to put structures in place so that we can begin the scheme and have it rolled out by the time we meet here this time next year.The second issue on which I want to touch is the outrageous situation whereby those in receipt of the housing assistance payment, HAP, primarily women, are being discriminated against when applying for legal aid. I know a lot about the legal aid system and the family law matters discussed in the District Court such as maintenance, custody, access and guardianship. These payments are taken into account when assessing income, which rules many people out. This is an absolutely outrageous situation. Vulnerable women and their children are those primarily being left behind by this. Going to court on one's own because the State has failed to provide one with a council house and one has to rely on the HAP system is a scary prospect and absolutely outrageous.
There is a lot more I could say on International Women's Day. Many of my colleagues here in the Chamber have touched on issues. I hope that next year, when Covid has receded, we will be able to have a debate over a full day to allow us to tease out all of these issues rather than rushing through them in a very short session. I hope everyone enjoys the day. I thank everyone for their contributions. It was really interesting to listen to everyone's thoughts. It is a great honour for me to be a Member of this House alongside so many brilliant women.