Deep Frustration as Labour Chair of Equality Closes Down Questions on Gender Based Violence
Cathaoirleach of the Gender Equality Committee, Iavna Bacik, closed down questions on Gender Based Violence and Sexual Assault at today’s meeting of the Gender Equality Committee. The questions were posed by Aontú leader and Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín. Speaking after the meeting an Teachta Tóibín stated;
“What happened today was astonishing. There is a enormous reality gap between what the government says about gender equality and their actions. I sought to raise two extremely important issues today in the Gender Equality Committee. I looked to raise the lack of protections for elected representatives who have been sexually assaulted while carrying out their duties as elected representatives. I also sought to raise the shocking situation where the Women of Honour have still not have justice in terms of the grave wrongs that they have experienced in the Defence Forces. The Committee today was tasked with discussing implementation of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality with An Taoiseach Micheál Martin. The Citizens’ Assembly recommendations clearly relate to the barriers faced by women in politics and they clearly relate to sexual and gender based violence. I kept my questions and comments to these areas”.
“I raised the case of Cllr Deirdre Donnelly who has alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a fellow councillor while attending to her political duties. Cllr Donnelly suffered a significant physical injury as a result of the assault and she was diagnosed with PTSD just weeks after the assault. Cllr Donnelly was very close to leaving political life due to the trauma that she underwent”.
“When she raised the issue with her council, she was told by her council that they had no duty of care responsibility to her because she was not an employee. When she raised it with political party of the perpetrator, Fianna Fáil, she engaged with by a solicitor firm. There was no investigation by FF. The was no discipline imposed and indeed the Councillor was selected to run again in the last local election. There is no evidence that there are effective policy and procedures in political parties in terms of protecting the victims of these crime or even in dealing with gross sexual misconduct”.
“I also tried to raise the case of the Women of Honour with the Taoiseach. Its over a year ago since I raised their case in the Dail for the first time. They were promised a completely independent investigation. They were told that they would have full engagement in the terms of reference of any investigation and the investigation would have the power to access all information. None of those promises have been fulfilled. They were presented with Terms of References without their proper input as a fait de’accompli. The Investigation is not being given access to all the necessary information and they do not have confidence in the investigation. This is a scandal. It’s a disaster for the women in question who are entitled to truth and justice. The legacy of this toxic culture is that only 44 women applied to join the Defence Forces last year”.
“Incredibly these questions were shut down as soon as I started. I had requested speaking time from the Clerk of the Committee yesterday and I was told I would be given it. I also requested from the Cathaoirleach of the Committee, Iavna Bacik time to speak on these two very grave and serious issues. I was assured that I would be given time. Initially I was told to stop as I mentioned the name of the victim and survivor of the alleged sexual assault. I then kept my questions and comments completely general. I was told that the issues were outside the Terms of Reference which is patently incorrect. Finally time was used as an excuse to shut down the questions. This despite the fact that speaking times of this important committee was continuously allowed to meander well beyond the allotted times of elected reps”.
“I had much more to contribute on these important issues. I had spoken in detail to victims and survivors of gender based violence before the committee and I know they were anxious that these questions would be asked. Its incredible that I was blocked by the Cathaoirleach. Astonishingly the Taoiseach seemed to try and address some of these issues but the Cathaoirleach prevented the limited questions being answered. Shutting down these critical issues is an injustice to the victims and survivors who are citizens of this country and have a democratic right to be represented in eth Dáil. I have no option but to raise this with the Ceann Chomhairle on his return. CRIOCH