We need to build a society that is reflective of the lived experience of all people

13 March 2021

In light of the overwhelming response of women to the tragic murder of Sarah Everard, the Labour Party has reiterated it’s call for the extension of the purple flags initiative throughout all local authorities. In advance of the Citizens’ Assembly meeting on the topic of Gender Equality this weekend, Labour Leader Alan Kelly highlighted the urgent need for a targeted awareness campaign to highlight the purple flag initiative across local authorities.

Reflecting on this week’s events, Deputy Kelly said we urgently need to introduce hate crime laws, with gender as one of these grounds. While there is legislation currently before the Oireachtas on this, Deputy Kelly said we must look at amending criminal laws to make it easier to prove sexual harassment.

Deputy Kelly said:

“Everyone has been struck by the experiences shared by women online as we come to grips with the horrific murder of Sarah Everard in the UK. Unfortunately, men are often ignorant of the risks women face by just going about their business. As a father to a young girl, I am acutely aware of the urgent need to make our towns and city centres safer. No woman should have to be on edge going to get milk in the evening, and no parent should have to wait by their phone for the “I got home ok” text from their daughter.

“Unfortunately, society has been built and structured around men and we now need to change this and challenge this status quo. I echo the words of my colleague Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin who has highlighted the role that men in particular have to play in questioning their privilege and seeing the world from the eyes of others.

“While we look forward to hearing the outcome of the Citizens’ Assembly this weekend, there are a number of practical and immediate steps that society could enact now. In 2012, my Labour colleague Senator Ivana Bacik called for the introduction of a ‘Purple Flag’ initiative for safety urban towns which has since been enacted in many areas across the country. However, we clearly need to strengthen the resources associated with the accreditation, including greater funding for safer mobility, better street lighting, and potentially, a greater Garda presence, particularly in rural towns.

“I would also like to remind people of the app that enables taxi customers to verify who their driver is, which I launched in 2013. The Taxi Driver Check app allows passengers to check the licence details of the vehicle and driver which can be forwarded to a friend to reassure taxi customers that they are travelling safely, and that there is a record of their trip. While we wish that there was no need for this, it is a reality that many women are just as worried about their safety during a taxi trip as when walking home. Having additional security of sharing details with a friend will provide some level of reassurance.

“It’s clear that as a society, we need to have a bigger conversation where women’s voices and lived experiences are put at the centre of this. Men need to challenge their peers actions and words, and we also need to see more targeted intervention at an early age. I am calling on the Minister for Education and her Department to consider the inclusion of core dignity and respect principles included in the SPHE education received by all young people.

“For too long, men in particular have been ignorant of the anxiety women are faced with simply by virtue of being a woman walking in the dark. This is not good enough. We need to build a society that is reflective of the lived experience of all people. I want to thank every woman who has shared her story this week, and I hope that this is a watershed moment for Ireland’s approach to protecting the vulnerable in our society.”

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