Archive for the ‘Eire’ Category

Following feedback from users we set up the blog womensgrid to focus on information by and about women from around the UK and Ireland (and any European items that seem relevant).

So to see the latest UK and Ireland posting go to

(see original annoucement at

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre is calling for improved legislation governing the area of underage sex.

The call follows the acquittal yesterday of a 27-year-old man who had consensual sex with a 13-year-old girl seven years ago.

The jury in the case accepted the man’s defence that he was not aware the girl was under the legal age of consent and took less than an hour to return a not-guilty verdict.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre says legislation in this area is still flawed because of the Government’s rushed attempts to fix the situation when the statutory-rape laws were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court two years ago.

That ruling was made because the law did not allow defendants to argue that they genuinely believed the victim was over the age of consent.

Gardai massaging crime statistics for years, new CSO report shows
… The findings also confirm what women’s groups have been saying for years — that less than one-in-10 rape cases proceed to the point of a conviction. …

A teenage boy charged with statutory rape is to challenge the controversial law in the High Court on the grounds it discriminates against him because he is male.

The 17-year-old from Donegal has been charged with the statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl on August 5, 2006, when he was aged 15.

A case will now go to the High Court where it will be claimed the boy is the victim of discrimination, as the law he is charged under unfairly grants the girl immunity from prosecution despite having had sex with him.

The Government introduced this caveat to prevent the criminalisation of teenage pregnancies.

But this case will require the Government to convince the High Court that the discriminatory protection granted to underage girls is justified.

This clause was first introduced in the emergency criminal justice act passed in June 2006 to plug the loophole identified by the Mr C case.

On this occasion a man had his conviction quashed because he was not allowed to defend himself on the grounds he made an honest mistake about the girl’s age — this led to the temporary release of other confessed child rapists.

Since then the Government has rejected a chorus of demands to repeal the discriminatory clause. These have come from victims groups, legal experts, the Ombudsman for Children and the joint Oireachtas committee on child protection.

The Government’s constant assertion that it can justify the discrimination will now be put to the test by the Donegal teenager.

His lawyers have prepared a case, citing the state, the attorney-general and the director of public prosecutions as defendants.

It will specifically challenge the statutory rape law, which differs from other sexual offences because it creates the crime of having sex with a person before they reach the age of consent — even if they were a willing partner.

The team will argue that, among other issues, the 2006 act breaches article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits gender discrimination.

The 17-year-old has already been charged at a district court in Donegal and has been sent to trial at the Circuit Criminal Court.

This has yet to take place and the High Court action will seek an order delaying the trial until his challenge is decided.

The teenager is accused of having sexual intercourse with a girl who was under the age of consent on August 5, 2006.

He is also accused of committing buggery on the same day and faces a prison term of up to five years if convicted.

The teenager’s legal team is also planning to argue his prosecution breaches article 8 of the European Convention as it denies his right to a private life.

Last night, director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland Fiona Neary said the case raises serious questions about the laws protecting children.

“This case puts the spotlight on the complexities surrounding child protection in Ireland, especially concerning teenagers as they emerge into their sexuality. The High Court must now decide if this is possible under the terms of the constitutional right to non-discrimination by gender,” she said.

Call for end to TD lobbying in rape cases
The Labour Party has said it is open to introducing guidelines on the circumstances in which its elected representatives can write letters on behalf of those facing criminal charges.

Report on discussion hosted by RAG

RAG, the Revolutionary Anarchafeminist Group is now in its third year. The collective was set up in order to explore our ideas and produce a magazine, the Rag. Meetings are held weekly on Mondays, but the first Monday of every month is an open meeting, in which non-members are invited to a workshop or discussion.

On Monday 7th April, the open meeting was entitled “Why Anarchafeminism?” The purpose of the meeting was to encourage women outside of RAG to question and explore their ideas about feminism and anarchism and to draw links between the two. Also, it gave members of the group a chance to revisit the fundamental aspects of our beliefs. The following is a personal account by two of us of the discussion. It is limited by the quality of our notes and recollections. It does not present a RAG position on anything, but is simply an attempt to share some of the ideas that were touched upon with those who were unable to attend.


The introductory round of the discussion invited the women present to state their general ideas about anarchism and feminism. All the RAG women present identified as anarchafeminist, although each had come to anarchafeminism from different perspectives. One member said that while feminism was a given for her, she realised that we can’t have meaningful liberation with capitalism intact. Thus her belief in anarchism.


Another held that it was easier for her to identify herself to others as a feminist than as an anarchist – or at least to defend her position. She felt that people who have not considered the concepts before tend to be more willing to accept the premise that women and men should have equality than to question the core of the economic and political systems in place.

Dirty Words

Others noted that they were unable or unwilling to identify as feminist for many years due in part to the negative connotations associated with “the F word!” (There was mention that perhaps Anarchism was also seen as a dirty word – the mis-association between anarchy and chaos etc.) There was discussion around the fact that the capitalist system in place is very effective in muddying the meaning of concepts which pose a clear threat to that system.

Coming to Consciousness/ Global Consciousness

We spoke about our experiences of becoming conscious as both feminists and as anarchists, and how surprising it is that we can live happily blind to the oppressive systems around us until this change in consciousness begins to take place. It was noted that it takes a certain level of understanding to find real conviction about feminist and anarchist ideas – as to do so we must expand our view of the world to look at the global systems of oppression in place. We have to identify our own somewhat limited struggles with the very struggle for existence of many of those in the global south for example. There was more talk of migration issues and how traditionally feminine economic roles, such as care, childrearing and even sex-work are being filled by a new generation of migrant women travelling to Ireland to escape poverty in other countries. Thus greater equality for western women does not mean greater equality for all.

The Radical Feminist Threat

While feminism seems to be a more accessible concept than anarchism – or less threatening for many, it is in fact multi-layered and multi-disciplined. Even though, in recent years there has been a growth in feminist academia, it is a ghettoised thing, and little in the way of truly radical feminist ideas have seeped out into the public consciousness. Yet real feminism requires complete social restructuring which can be equated with anarchism.

What is Anarchism?

There were some women present who were unfamiliar with the term anarchism. While no “definition” was offered, it came out during the discussion that the ultimate aim of anarchism is total democracy – that each person would have equal say in every aspect of their own lives. This requires the destruction of state, hierarchy and class society, and the construction of bottom-up systems to replace it. There was some discussion around the idea of Revolution, and the need for strong grassroots action and organisation in preparation for radical change. Ultimately this would lead to an ability to take control of our resources and the defend that right. While the site for this has often been the work-place in traditional anarchist dialogue, it was noted that from a feminist perspective, the family and the body are additional sites of conflict (our literal “means of production” which we determined to seize!)

There was an aside which noted that while as anarchists we attempt to be the change we wish to see, creating non-hierarchical structures and modes of working for example. As one participant noted, however, it is not enough to try to create a utopian present, but we must remain conscious of the broader political and worldwide struggle and attempt to engage with it, not ignore it in order to work on own small circle.

Equality not Sameness

It was pointed out that one of the misconceptions of the feminist movement so far has been that for women to be equal to men, we had to be the same. Thus we have joined the rush into the workplace to have, as one participant put it, “equal access to exploitation.” We also have the added bonus of the double day at work – both outside and inside the home. The value system of capitalism is profit-driven. Only that which produces profit is seen as productive, and women’s work in producing and caring for children, in keeping the home and in caring for the sick and the old, is not valued under capitalism.

The question was placed whether capitalism would ever be able to fully adapt to feminism. It was observed that although feminism has made progressive changes for some women in the west, it cannot succeed in creating global equality under capitalism: a complete overhaul is in order. While patriarchy (the system of male dominance over women) has existed thousands of years longer than capitalism has, capitalism has made effective use of it and in some ways it may be reliant on it – for example on the nuclear family. It was suggested that capitalism would never arrive at complete equality. For it, the perception of equality is as good as actual equality. It would only concede enough to give a convincingly muddied image of equality. As the nature of capitalism is exploitation, it would be naïve to chase an equality ideal within it.


There was some debate around the value of “reformist” feminism. No-one doubted that very real changes had been made in women’s lives due to feminist efforts. These range from the right to vote to the right to work outside of the home, equal pay legislation, anti-domestic violence legislation, etc. Unlike anarchism, feminism can and has been accepted into capitalist reform. Yet it is the socialists and anarchists who have always been behind meaningful reform – through the trade union movements, anti-racism work, community work, and women’s liberation movements. It was questioned how much has been lost to the ultimate aims of those working to create these reforms. Their achievements have been co-opted into seeming like the achievements of “democracy” when in fact they are the small rights pulled back by those who have fought against the oppressive systems in place.

It was mainly agreed that while we would always fight for meaningful reform (for abortion rights and free childcare for example), we also want to remain completely clear about why we are fighting – due to a belief not just in women’s equality – but in absolute equality. For us, the ultimate endpoint of feminism is anarchism. Yet this endpoint would never be an endpoint in itself. Someone mentioned the need for a constant state of revolt – that the reality of anarchafeminism in action would be a continual striving to do better. There can be no hand-book on how life would be after the revolution!

Patriarchy and Men

Threatened systems of oppression have always been adept at misrepresenting that threat, or causing arguments to be framed in a certain way. Thus the fight for women’s equality has been framed as a “battle of the sexes”. Certainly, male privilege is a reality, and one which feminists have focussed on in the past. Yet abolishing male privilege is not the end-goal of feminism (and certainly not of anarchafeminism!) Feminism has led to a growing consciousness of male oppression under patriarchy. For example: strict adherence to masculine gender roles, duty to “provide” in the realm of work and lack of equal rights to active parenthood. Male-oppression has been misconstrued as either a product of the feminist movement, or an oversight of it. Yet it is through feminist dialogue that a space has opened up for discussing these aspects of men’s lives and experiences. At the moment, it is only anti-feminist “backlash” groups which are addressing these specifically male issues. It is only through pro-feminist solidarity between men and women that meaningful inroads into these issues can be made. This would be truly revolutionary anarchafeminism! Yet there seems to be an unwillingness, or unreadiness as yet for anarchist men to take this on.

Queer Feminism?

There was a question about the link between feminism and queer theory – or what anarchafeminism could offer queer people (queerness might be roughly defined as gender or sexuality non-conformism.) We talked about anarchism as the freedom to be yourself within only the confines of not harming others. The destruction of the systems of capitalism, state and patriarchy would lead to an explosion in different ways of being – sexualities, gender identities, family structures etc. Presently, although there has been some acceptance by wealthy capitalist countries of difference, ultimately difference is acceptable only as a lifestyle choice, not as a revolutionary force, which (with anarchafeminist analysis?) it should ultimately be.

The meeting finished with a closing circle where all acknowledged the value of the discussion, some professed to have found nothing new, and some everything! Yet most were somewhere in-between. Certainly it provided food for thought and opened the way for further debate.

See also RAG Feminist Gathering Fri 2nd to Mon 5th May – Leitrim Ireland at

The fourth annual Wise Woman Weekend takes place on the shore of Lough Gill in Co Sligo June 6th to June 8th, 2008.

This is a weekend of learning, discovery, celebration and fun for women of all ages. A time to get away from the normal stress of family, work and social obligation and honour yourself and other women.

Workshops and activities include dance, creative writing, permaculture garden design,crystal healing, new cosmology, a guided walk to an ancient site, eating for your blood type, yoga, meditation, openspace discussions, speaker’s corner, mini treatments, the Wild Woman Open Mic Social, and lots more.

For full details log onto

The RAG is a magazine produced by a diverse group of anarcha-feminist women in Dublin. We are all feminists, united in our recognition that women’s subordination exists. We are all anarchists, united in our belief for the need to create alternatives to this capitalistic, patriarchal society wherein all are dominated and exploited.

RAG are organising a feminist gathering to take place on the Mayday bank holiday weekend in a rural setting in Leitrim. There will be workshops, discussions, skill-sharing, music and fun.

Feminists of all persuasions (and all genders!) are welcome to attend. Bring your enthusiasm and ideas. We also hope to make the gathering an inclusive space for children.

Costs will be kept to a minimum. Accomodation is camping, though we will help those with any special accomodation needs.

If you wish to attend, join the organising list asap to guarantee your space:

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Any problems with that, or any questions before subscribing, just email us here

Please forward this msg to anyone you think might be interested.



Sat 12th April, Lower Deck, Portobello – Fundraising gig for Gathering
Truck, Party Weirdo, Zing, Clodagh Kerley.
€6 min donation/ €5 unwaged

Ever since feminism’s “Second Wave” emerged in the wake of the anti-Vietnam War movement, women around the world have debated the compatibility of national liberation and women’s liberation. Several questions predominate: Which movement is more likely to liberate women? If both are necessary, how will they fit together? And what about other oppression many women face, such as classism and racism?

This paper will examine these issues as they relate to women in Ireland. It will put Ireland’s national liberation and women’s liberation into their historical contexts. It will next describe the Irish women’s current social and economic conditions.Finally, it will compare and contrast the roads to women’s liberation envisioned by feminists and Irish Republicans.

Ireland’s colonization by Britain was begun with the Anglo- Norman invasion of 1169, and it was completed by 1652 under Cromwell. The British government removed the native Irish from their lands and planted loyal colonists in their stead. The native Irish were governed by the Penal Laws, an apartheid code,which forbade them to own land or horses, practice theirreligion, participate in government or educate their children. This repression spawned secret societies and agrarian revolt in every generation. Many Presbyterian planters were sympathetic to native Catholic grievances, as they were nearly as oppressed legally by a colonial administration which restrained trade and deliberately kept Ireland underdeveloped. Following the examples of the American and French revolutions, the dissatisfied elements within Ireland coalesced into the United Irishmen, a movement for an independent Irish Republic. After many failed risings, this goal was partially realized in 1921 with the winning of limited independence for 26 of Ireland’s 32 colonies.

Irish Republicans, however–along with the majority of nationalists never accepted Ireland’s partition, and they are still fighting for a united, socialist Ireland. Irish women historically saw their gender’s liberation intertwined with their nation’s. In Celtic Ireland before the conquest, women enjoyed many legal rights which aren’t equalled in most countries today. Women kept their own property in marriage, and neither partner could enter into any contract or business deal without the other’s consent.

(1) Both husband and wife were allowed liberal grounds for divorce.A wife could divorce her husband for fourteen reasons, including his slander of her or for his sexual inadequacy.

(2) Women were also legally protected in common-law and transient relationships, and no children were considered illegitimate (3).

The British conquest brought Ireland’s independent legal system to an end and removed most of Irish women’s traditional rights. It also brought sexual prudery, which hadn’t previously been part of Irish culture. Pre-conquest church ruins in Ireland contain carvings of sile-na-gigs, naked female forms with hugh exposed genitals, often show masturbating.

One Celtic tradition which the conquest did not bring to an end was the existence and acceptance of strong warrior women.In the Tain bo Cuailgne or Cattle Raid of Cooley, Ireland’s main mythological saga, the warrior Queen Maeve led her army to victory, drowning one opposing army in a flood of urine and menstrual blood. And in Elizabethan times, Grainne Mhaol led her clan in pirate raids on British ships, later negotiating with Elizabeth as an equal. In every Irish rebellion, women fought alongside men and took part in all activities. But most of this women’s history has been obscured and is only lately being rediscovered. For example, contemporary accounts of the 1798 rebellion list many women’s actions; but later histories have dropped almost all these incidents. Feminist demands also accompanied nationalist struggles, at least from 1798 on. Mary Ann McCracken, a United Irishwoman, was an admirer of Mary Wollstonecraft. Before joining the society of United Irishwomen, she wrote to an imprisoned friend that she wished “to know if they have any rational ideas of liberty and equality for themselves or whether they are content with their present abject and dependent situation, degraded by custom and education beneath the rank in society in which they were originally placed.” (4)

By the Easter Rising of 1916, three movement had joined forces to take advantage of Britain’s preoccupation with the World War: the nationalist movement, the labor movement and the woman’s movement.This alliance meant that a progressive social program for worker’s and women’s rights accompanied the demand for national liberation. James Connolly, a socialist theoretician and one of the rebellion’s executed leaders, supported the woman’s suffrage movement. In 1915 he wrote: “The worker is the slave of the capitalist society, the female worker is the slave of that slave. ” (5)

And in 1918, when the Republicans won a landslide electoral victory and set up their own (illegal) parliament, Constance Markievcz–a 1916 leader–was named Secretary of Labour. She and Alexandra Kollantai in the new Soviet Union were the first women at cabinet level. (6)

The partition of Ireland and the ensuing Civil War ensured the victory of pro-British, socially conservative forces in government. In the 1930’s many of the remaining Irish radical leaders fought and died for the Spanish Republic.This paved the way for the 1937 Irish Constitution, Article 41 of which states that “by her life within the home, Woman gives to the State a support without which common good cannot be achieved.” (7) In the late 1960’s the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, inspired by the African-American Civil Rights Movement, waged a non-violent campaign to win equal rights for the Catholic nationalist people of the partitioned Six Counties.Women made up a large proportion of this movement but, except for Bernadette Devlin, the entire leadership was male.When peaceful marches were continually beaten and shot off the streets (culminating in Bloody Sunday, January 1972, when British paratroopers killed fourteen unarmed demonstrators), the armed struggle was resumed.

Also in the early 1970’s a woman’s movement was emerging in Dublin, inspired by those in the United States and other European countries.Irish feminists agitated for reforms in the welfare system for single mothers, for access of women to equal jobs, pay and education, and for legal divorce and contraception.(8) One of the women’s first actions was the Contraception Train to Belfast in May, 1971. (9) Since contraceptions were legal in Northern Ireland, 47 women travelled there and brought large quantities of contraceptives, which they openly declared at Irish Customs on their return.This action attracted a lot of media attention and sparked a large campaign, which led to the partial legality of contraception.

In 1975 the Northern Ireland Women’s Rights Movement was founded in Belfast to demand parity with British laws on women’s rights.This was a middle class, legalistic movement, which took no position on working class or nationalist women’s issues.The following year, when the NIWRM criticized the Troops Out Movement, a Socialist Women’s Group split off from it. Then in 1977 the Socialist Women’s Group split again, and the Belfast Women’s Collective was formed to work more closely with the Republican Movement, especially around women’s prisoners issues. A final split, in 1978, produced Women Against Imperialism, which had even closer links with the Republicans. (10) The centrality of the national struggle and the polarized positions on it kept a united feminist movement from developing in the North of Ireland.

To understand women’s conditions in Ireland, one needs to know a little bit about Irish society and its economic conditions. The occupied Six Counties of Northern Ireland is a British colony, ruled directly from London. The southern 26 counties, or “Irish Republic”, is s neo-colony–nominally independent but with its economy completely dominated by multinational investment. In economic terms, Ireland is a Third World country. Officially, unemployment in both parts of Ireland exceeds 17 percent. But in some working class areas, it is over 80%. Politically, both parts of Ireland are conservative confessional states.The south is dominated by the Catholic Church, and the north by fundamentalist Protestantism. Both states are extremely conservative in social legislation, and both use repressive measure and censorship to try and maintain the status quo.These social and economic condition impact heavily on women. Although more women have entered the labor force in recent years, they are highly concentrated in service industries. (12) Women in the 26 Counties earn only 60 per cent of male wages, while those in the Six Counties earn 75.5 percent. (13) Over 1.25 million Irish women (at least half the female population) is classified as living in poverty.(14) Women’s social conditions, influenced by strong links between conservative churches and states, haven’t improved significantly since the early 1970’s.

Contraceptives can now be legally prescribed in the 26 Counties, but many doctors and pharmacists, especially in rural areas, refuse to provide them.Condoms can only be sold in pharmacies, and a record store in Dublin which challenged them was prosecuted successfully in 1990. Abortion, which has always been illegal in Ireland, was made unconstitutional in a 1983 referendum.Even non-directive pregnancy counseling, with options for abortion in Britain discussed, is illegal. In the North abortion is also illegal, even though Northern Ireland is supposed to be an integral part of Britain. Divorce is still illegal in the 26 Counties, although a campaign is growing for a new referendum on this issue. Women in Northern Ireland also have to contend with sexist harassment from armed soldiers on their streets, constant house raids, strip-searching, and caring for families alone while their husbands or imprisoned or on the run.

Feminists and republican feminists propose different solutions for women’s oppression. The largely middle-class feminist movement sees the solution as working toward equality and gender-neutrality in the legal system.The Commission for the Status of Women, a government-appointed advisory body, recommended many changes in employment and social welfare laws, which ameliorated some of the worst inequalities. (15) Many feminists also see the need for steps beyond formal equality, such as day care facilities, maternity leave and control of their own fertility, as necessary prerequisites for equality.Single-issue campaigns on many of these issues have been and are being fought by feminist groups.Women’s cultural groups, such as writing groups, self-help therapy groups, sports groups, etc.are seen by many as “an alternative environment in which women can explore ideas and support each other away from the constraints imposed by patriarchal structures.” (16)

Republican feminists say that this approach is too fragmented, dealing with symptoms, rather than the cause of women’s problems, which they see as capitalism and British imperialism, along with patriarchy. As Mary Nelis, a Derry Sinn Fein activist, puts it: “The system of patriarchy, with its sub- structures of imperialism and capitalism, can accommodate reforms and even allow women to be the power figure head ( e.g.Maggie Thatcher) given that the ground rules establishing essential inequality remain intact.” (17)

The fragmentation of a multitude of single-issue women’s groups, each lobbying against the others for funding and attention, is seen by republican feminists as “the old divide and conquer trick”.(18) They also believe that “the state apparatus, to an extent, has absorbed the women’s movement.The more acceptable feminists have become part of the establishment and enjoy the freedom of the airwaves, which we, as Republicans, are denied under Section 31 {26 Counties censorship law}. So what is the real threat?” (19) Nell McCafferty, a feminist journalist whose work is known around the world, had broken laws on behalf of women’s rights to contraception for years and had reported on this “criminal activity”. As she said, “It did my career no harm at all.” (20) But then she gave an interview expressing support for the IRA. She was immediately banned from Irish airwaves.

Feminist objections to the Irish Republican struggle usually fall into three main categories: (1) “It’s a man’s war”; (2) “Women should concentrate on our own liberation as women;” and (3) “It’s different from legitimate struggles in the Third World.” (21)

Cathy Harkin of Derry Women’s Aid, a refuge for battered women, put forth the first objection. She calls Derry “an armed patriarchy” and says that women in the Republican Movement have “seldom risen to positions of authority except where they adopt the male ideals, aims and discipline of the movement. ” (22) This argument, which has been debated in feminist circles for years, presupposes that women are “naturally” pacifist and that any women who takes part in a struggle which includes a military component is going against her true nature and only following men.

This is a dangerous argument for feminists to make, because women’s supposed biological and psychological “differences” have been used against them through patriarchal history. Besides, as women IRA Volunteers have stated, “This is not a man’s war, but a people’s war.(23)

Margaret Ward, a feminist historian, raises the second objection. She asks, “Can feminism offer such unqualified support (to national liberation) and retain its ability to encompass the reality of all women’s oppression, to fight without compromise for women’s interests?” (24) This criticism raises two questions (1) What are women’s issues? and (2) Is the Irish Republican Movement fighting for them? To the first question, the Irish Women Prisoner of War have answered, “Women within the occupied Six Counties of IReland are oppressed by both a foreign imperialist state and the sexist ideologies which suppress women worldwide.” (25) And Bernadette Devlin McAliskey added that “We are not oppressed simply because we are women but also because we are working class women and because we are working class republican women. ” (26) As a woman Sinn Fein activist stated, “Just because as issue also affects men, doesn’t mean it’s not a woman’s issue.” (27)

But what about the issues that are specifically of interest to women? As asked in question 2 above, is the Republican Movement fighting for them, as well? Sinn Fein has an extensive policy document which states its positions on women’s issues. It calls for, among other things, legal divorce; free and accessible contraception; non-directive pregnancy counseling embodying all choice; childcare to be shared by both parents; 24 hour public childcare; and an end to stereotyping of sex roles in education and advertising.(28) Plus, Sinn Fein members are active in women’s center and in campaigns for divorce, non-directive pregnancy counseling, and against rape and battering.

The third objection to Republicanism, that it isn’t a bonafide Third World movement, has been dealt with earlier in this paper, where Ireland’s economic status as a Third World country was explored.

Many people are more comfortable supporting liberation movements that are far away from their home and are waged by people who look different from them or speak a different language than they are supporting a movement closer to home.The distance and suspicion between feminists and republicans is harmful to both movements and to all women’s liberation. As the coordinator of the Falls Road Women’s Center in Belfast explains, “The right wing has no trouble in uniting to defend its interests while using the distortions caused by British imperialism to divide us and divert our energies.” (29) The inability of the women’s movement to mount an effective opposition to the current conservative backlash is attributed by Marron to this “sectionalism and fear.” (30)

Both the feminist and Republican movements have a lot to offer each other and the Irish people.

Nell McCafferty comments that :

“It has so far proved easier to feminise Republicans, who have much to gain from the inclusion of women in the struggle, than to Republicanise feminists, who have much to lose if women’s interests are totally subordinated to a resolution of the war.

“However, experience around the world shows that social protest struggles have been obliged to take steps to resolve sexist problems once the women’s movement has become involved…

“It poses a challenge to the Irish women’s movement of developing a theory and practice on feminism and war.The active involvement of women is imperative if women are to have, when the war is resolved, the freedom of free men. ” (31)

by Jan Cannavan, Irish Women’s History Group
1.Donncha O Corrain, “Women in Early Irish History,” in “Women In Irish Society: The Historical Dimension”, eds Margaret MacCurtain and Donncha O Corrain (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1979), p. 2.
2. ibid., p. 6.
3. ibid., p. 4.
4.Mary NcNeill, “The Life and Times of Mary Ann McCracken: A Belfast Panorama” (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1960), p. 126.
5. James Connolly, “Selected Writings”, ed P.Berresford Ellis (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973), p. 191.
6.Margaret Ward, “Unmanageable Revolutionaries: Women and Irish Nationalism” (London: Pluto Press, 1983), p. 137.
7. Ibid., p. 238.
8. Jenny Beale, “Women in Ireland: Voices of Change” (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), pp. 3-4.
9. Ibid., pp. 106-107.
10. Kevin Kelly, “The Longest War: Northern Ireland and the IRA (Lawrence Hill, 1982), pp 320-322.
11. Alternative Ireland Directory, 4th ed. (Cork, Ireland: Quay Co-op, 1990), p. 176.
12. Ursula Barry, “Lifting the Lid: Handbook of Facts and Information on Ireland” (Dublin: Attic Press, 1986), p. 34.
13. Alternative Ireland Directory, p. 4.
14. ibid.
15. Beale, p. 186.
16. Ibid., p. 193.
17. Mary Nelis, “Real Change Still Beckons” in “Unfinished Revolution: Essays on the Irish Women’s Movement” (Belfast: Meadbh Publishing, 1989), p. 5.
18. Mairead Keane, head of Sinn Fein Women’s Department, unpublished speech (1989).
19. Rita O’Hare, Sinn Fein Publicity Director, unpublished speech (undated–about 1987).
20. Nell McCafferty, “My Phone Doesn’t Ring Anymore…”, from “Labour and Ireland”, no. 20 (March, 1988).
21. Jan Cannavan, “Irish Freedom Fighters”, from “Womanews”, 9, no. 3 (March, 1988).
22. Nell McCafferty, “The Armagh Woman”, p. 88.
23. “Notes for Revolutionaries” (Belfast: Republican Publications, 1983), p. 1.
24. Ward, p. 262.
25. Women POWs, Maghaberry Gaol, “Women and the National Struggle”, from “Women in Struggle”, no. 1 (Spring, 1991), p.14.
26. Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, “What Price Reunification?” from “Counterspy”, 8, No.2 (December, 1983), 41.
27 Cannavan, p. 7.
28. “Women in Ireland: Sinn Fein Women’s Policy Document” (Sinn Fein, 1992).
29. Oonagh Marron, “The Cost of Silencing Voices Like Mine” from “Unfinished Revolution: Essays on the Irish Women’s Movement”, p. 42.
31. McCafferty, “The Armagh Women”, p. 30.

For further information on women in Ireland, please contact:
The Irish Women’s History Group
922 East 15th Street, Apt. 1A
Brooklyn, NY 11230
tel: 718-253-6640

An Irish Examiner/Red C national opinion poll on people’s attitudes to sex crimes found a core section of our society think rape victims are totally or partially responsible for being attacked.

It found:

* More than 30% think a victim is some way responsible if she flirts with a man or fails to say no clearly.

* 10% of people think the victim is entirely at fault if she has had a number of sexual partners.

* 37% think a woman who flirts extensively is at least complicit, if not completely in the wrong, if she is the victim of a sex crime.

* One in three think a woman is either partly or fully to blame if she wears revealing clothes.

* 38% believe a woman must share some of the blame if she walks through a deserted area.

The results also show that defence barristers, looking to swing the deciding three members in every 12-person jury, can exploit misgivings in certain demographics about the perceived responsibility of female victims.

Dramatic differences in empathy towards victims based on age and social class are revealed. Gender, however, had little impact.

In every category, widowed, divorced and separated people took the harshest view on the role of the female victim, compared with married or cohabiting couples.

The results of the poll support the results of the ground-breaking Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) report in 2002, which found 15% of the population believed a raped woman was not an innocent victim.

The SAVI report, which was published in partnership with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, also found 6% of women were raped at some point as adults.

Only a fraction reported the crime, as they feared they would be blamed or their claims would not be believed.

Chief executive of the DRCC Ellen O’Malley Dunlop said the findings of the Irish Examiner poll justified victims’ reluctance to come forward and further explained why less than 10% of rape allegations lead to a conviction.

“By its very nature rape means there is no consent involved, so the perpetrator is fully responsible. Just because a woman is in a situation where she is vulnerable it does not mean she is in any way to blame if she is raped,” she said.

Ms O’Malley Dunlop said although the SAVI report used broader definitions, she had hoped attitudes to sex crime were improving since 2002.

The Irish Examiner/Red C poll provided some hope in this regard because younger people were far less likely to say a female rape victim was accountable if she acted in a certain way.

Responding to the Irish Examiner survey, Amnesty International said the Government has a responsibility to focus on the formal education system in order to change attitudes.

Cliona Saidlear, policy officer at Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI), said Ireland had the lowest conviction rates for rape in Europe and people needed to understand their attitudes to sex crimes were contributing to the problem.

“We as a society need to have this discussion. It is not just about what other people can do, these are attitudes we can change ourselves because this is not acceptable. If people are thinking somehow because you are drunk or wear certain clothes you are inviting rape then it makes it even harder for a woman to report what happened. You can see this in the massive levels of under-reporting by the victims of rape.”

She said it was too easy for people to sit back and say others need to change their attitudes without taking a critical look at themselves.

“We have to look at what we think, and our own attitudes. We in the RCNI are calling for reform of the legal system and that is badly needed. We also are looking at how the education system can help and that needs to be looked at.

“But we cannot leave this to sex education classes or changes in the law. This is about how we behave ourselves and if we continue to blame people for a crime committed on them then we will never overcome this problem,” said Ms Saidlear.

Taking a scattergun approach to justice is ignoring the real root of the violence issue*

Much has been written over the last week about the terrible violence on our streets. Depending on which side of the bleeding heart you find yourself we should either all have a group hug, or at the very least get right to the core of the problem — society. Few, if any, are calling for lengthy sentences to be meted out without fear or favour, or a radical overhaul of our prison system where prisoners might actually serve their full term and get no remission. Zero tolerance appears to be an expression that even our most fed up of commentators appear unwilling to shout. Aside from missing the point on how we might deal with the lunatics who stalk our streets, the general analysis that it is all a societal problem is way off the mark.

Firstly, it of course diminishes the notion of family upbringing and personal responsibility. These are considered dirty words, which means we as a group are therefore responsible for pushing a screwdriver into the head and neck of the two unfortunate Polish men — not the individual or individuals who did it, but society as a whole.

Coupled with this nonsense is that somehow men, women and children are equally responsible for crime in the country. Your sex is irrelevant, as is your social background, as is your age. We all apparently share this criminal burden. It is this scattergun approach to justice that has us in the mess we are in today. Let’s say it straight once and for all. Males, and more specifically lower income/no legal income males, are responsible for crime in this country. Not the decent young man scratching a living trying to pay a mortgage and make ends meet but the hoodie generation, the automatons that rule our street corners. It is these flotsam and jetsam that are responsible for all our crime. Not women, men.

Only one opinion piece recently has managed to identify this correctly and if you think it’s all wild opinion, think again. The Prison Service Report of 2006 tells a sorry tale of the collection who are currently lolling in our prisons and one statistic above all others sticks out. Over 90pc of our prison population is male. Nearly all violent crime is committed by males, be it murder, rape, or assault. Virtually all the serious drug offence are committed by males. You name the crime, it almost certainly has a male behind it and the more serious it is, the more certainty you can have that it has been committed by a man.

Most of the tiny percentage of females in prison are in there for relatively petty offences such as shoplifting and street robbery to feed a drug habit and there is no need to ask who encouraged them with this habit — males. This small group are not without responsibility. They are, however, merely an hors d’oeuvre to the main course that is the criminal Irish male.

An examination of the age ranges of male prisoners makes for equally fascinating reading. You might have thought that the vast bulk would be under 30. You would be forgiven for thinking, maybe even hoping, that by 30, men would have acquired some sense as they stand on the cusp of early middle age. But in Ireland we boast a male prison population of just shy of 40pc who are over the age of 30. A laughable 15pc are over 40 and 4pc are hurtling towards their pensions.

It is this 60pc group aged under 30 who should be our target. As a rule, 50-year-old men with jobs do not commit crimes. When they do it is white collar and before you ask, yes I would prefer to be approached by a white collar criminal on a dark night with a file then a blue collar thug looking for his next fix. Young and not so young males with no jobs and no discernible income stream need to be the target of An Garda Siochana if we are to free our streets of violence and drugs. We are in a crisis and chaos is evident in our towns and cities. Forget the women, the young and old, target instead males and particularly the type of recidivist males who come before the courts every day.

It is high time we stopped making sweeping statements about crime being endemic across class, creed and sex. It is not. Know your target. It is male. It is young(ish) and unfortunately it is coming soon to a town near you.

You have been warned.

* Opinion piece by John O’Keeffe, Dean of the Law School, Dublin Business School.

Transition Year (TY) students highlight horror of domestic violence

They may be County Mayo’s only entrants in the Young Social Innovators project for this school year, but the Transition Year (TY) students of Davitt College, Castlebar, sure knew how to pull an emotionally-charged punch at yesterday’s (Monday’s) presentation on domestic violence.

“My name is Chris/I am three,/My eyes are swollen/I cannot see,/I must be stupid/I must be bad,/What else could have made/My daddy so mad.”

Their short and simple drama was created by using a tableau of two figures illuminated behind a screen, with one repeatedly assaulting the other, as a chorus of students narrated a grim tale.

“The hurt and the pain/Again and again/O please let it end!/And he finally stops/And heads for the door/While I lay there motionless/Sprawled on the floor/My name is Chris/I am three/ Tonight my daddy/Murdered me.”

For these TY students, who wish to ‘inspire a change’, a ‘broken home equals a broken heart’. On Thursday next they will join with other Young Social Innovators in Sligo and make their short dramatic presentation. They will also sell ‘Inspire a Change’ wrist bands to their fellow students in a fundraising effort for Mayo Women’s Support Services (MWSS) and their refuge.

“We think it is fantastic that the students are raising awareness about domestic violence. I think, as the Inspector [Mick Murray] said, the impact on children is not highlighted often enough. Children can be very torn and very confused by marital difficulties and violence,” said Catherine Neary of MWSS.

Praising the students for their dramatic presentation earlier, Insp Murray had observed it was usually the husband and wife who were highlighted when focusing on domestic violence issues.

“As a garda since 1980, I have dealt with more domestic violence incidents than I wanted to. Your depiction was impressive. It is usually the husband and the wife we meet and the children are often emotionally neglected and ignored in the whole situation,” said Insp Murray. He said that ‘economic circumstances’ was a very common reason for a woman remaining in a violent home. “Any man that hits a woman is a coward,” concluded Insp Murray. He warned: “Girls, don’t stay with a man that hits you.”

Congratulating Class 4a, Mayor of Castlebar, Cllr Eugene McCormack, said the presentation had been ‘very thought-provoking’. “What I found interesting was that it was behind the screen and that, in reality, this is what often happens behind closed doors,” he said.

School Principal, Mr Ioseph McGowan, said the students’ chosen subject was a very topical one. “It is very important that young people live beyond their own interests. They have put a huge amount of work into this and will now raise money for the women’s refuge,” said Mr McGowan.

Last year there were 178 referrals to the MWSS. There have been 1,800 since the services started in 1996. Since 1996, 131 women have been murdered in Ireland; over half of them, 82, in their own homes.

Young Social Innovators was created in 2001 to develop social awareness and activism among young people – aged between 15 and 18. It aims to help them become effective champions for social justice no matter what job or profession they enter. The framework involves students working in teams, to identify a social issue they feel they could help to change. The chosen issue may affect their school, community, Ireland in general, or have an international aspect.

For further information, visit and

A 13-year-old girl was kidnapped and raped in a brutal bid to force her parents to honour an arranged marriage. But the Irish Independent has learned that the girl’s 16-year-old-rapist, who had been selected to become her husband, and her abductors may never face prosecution as her parents have accepted a €10,000 payment after an independent mediator brokered a deal between the two families.

In a case that highlights the complexities of applying Irish laws to those with different customs and traditions, the Roma family – who arranged their daughter’s marriage when she was just eight – no longer regard the incident as a rape despite the fact that the child’s husband-to-be has admitted to gardai that he had sex with the girl.

Details of the hush-money payment emerged one month after a coroner ruled that a British teenager who opposed her parents plan for an arranged marriage died after she was strangled or smothered. The 17-year-old had previously been admitted to hospital after drinking bleach when she was introduced to her suitor and no one has been charged in relation to her killing. It was believed that once the Roma girl’s “husband” had sex with her, regardless of her consent, she and her family would have to accept and honour the original arranged marriage agreement.

A file has been sent to the Director of Public prosecutions and several people have been questioned in connection with the kidnapping, but the row between the two families has been resolved by the €10,000 payment. The case may prove difficult to bring to court as the families came to a new agreement following intervention by a mediator who recently travelled from England to Ireland to broker a deal. Other youths employed to kidnap the girl have also been compensated for their role in the abduction.

“Some Roma have their own customs when dealing these type of issues,” said a senior gardai who is involved in the ongoing investigation. “In this case a mediator was brought in from England to broker an agreement between the two parties.”

The young girl was at the centre of a major garda search last September after she was abducted from Dublin’s Molesworth Street where she had been begging. The boy and girl were to be married when she was 13 but her family later reneged on the deal. They girl’s family were unhappy with the boy because he had started to get into a lot of trouble and they refused to let the wedding go ahead, but the boy’s family were outraged that the original marriage agreement had been dishonoured.

“They felt that once the arrangement had been made there was no going back on it and decided to proceed and force the girl into the marriage,” said the investigating gardai.

The 16-year-old’s father is suspected of having organised the abduction plot then left the country and went to Romania once all the plans were set in place. A number of youths, many of them already known to gardai, were tasked with taking the young girl who was bungled into a car and whisked to Rathmines. She was then transferred to a second car and taken to a disused building on the outskirts of Drogheda, but gardai received reports of the kidnapping and managed to piece together some of the gang’s movements. They also learned the name of one youth, who is in his late teens, and believed to have been involved.

Mobile phone tracing technology, similar to that used to track the movements of convicted wife murderer Joe O’Reilly, was used to help locate the kidnappers and intercept the gang. That led investigators to concentrate their search to Co Louth. In the meantime, gardai in the area also provided intelligence on the presence of a suspicious gang and alerted their Dublin colleagues. After a surveillance operation was set up, one of the gang members was spotted and followed to a disused building They had planned to keep the girl there where the teenage boy was to have sex with her. A raid was then carried out and the girl was found in a locked room with her so-called husband-to-be, the 16-year-old boy.


Lap dancing clubs and strip bars inevitably result in the rise of human trafficking, a conference on the issue heard yesterday.

And those who start out working in the legal end of the sex trade — such as lap dancers — often end up selling their bodies for sex, Gerardine Rowley of Ruhama, the organisation that works with women caught up in prostitution, told the public meeting in Kilkenny city yesterday.

She said women, often in desperate financial situations, were groomed to become sex workers.

“This industry is about the grooming and normalising of prostitution. The competitive element of lap dancing, where one girl has to give a better dance than the next, means boundaries are lowered and women find themselves sliding into prostitution.”

Ms Rowley said few people saw the link between trafficking and sex clubs and if they were more aware, it would discourage their use.

Said Ms Rowley: “I would support any group or individual who protests outside these clubs. This is a serious issue. Don’t be afraid to say ‘we don’t want this’.”

She said the sex industry objectifies women, has been shown to have links to organised crime and results in a heightened risk of sexual assaults.

The conference, Human Trafficking and the Sex Industry, was organised by the city’s Mayor, Marie Fitzpatrick, and Labour Women, the women’s section of the Labour Party.

It was attended by the party’s former leader, Pat Rabbitte, as well as Labour Women chair Sinead Ni Chulachain.

Mr Rabbitte said he welcomed the upcoming Human Trafficking Bill, which is currently before the Dail and will deal with the criminalisation of those involved in it.

But he said the Bill fails to address the protection of those who are victims of human trafficking and, as a result, it will mean few victims come forward as they will fear deportation and worry about their security.

“The Government has said it will deal with that aspect in the Immigration Bill, but we feel trafficking of young women for the purpose of exploitation is an entirely separate issue to immigration,” he said.–lead-to-rise-in-sex-trafficking-1275090.html

Some sex offenders are working in pairs to identify and attack their victims, it was claimed yesterday.

Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, head of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said increasing numbers of people were brought for treatment in the sexual assault treatment unit of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin last year, compared to 2006.

And Ms O’Malley-Dunlop believes that hardcore pornography available on the internet is contributing to a growing trend of more brutally violent sexual attacks.

The final figures on sexual assaults are being collated for the centre’s annual report.

However, there are major concerns at the scale of the problem — in December alone, 30 women were brought to the unit by DRCC volunteers.

At the same time, there are worrying patterns developing in the types of sexual assaults being perpetrated, said Ms O’Malley-Dunlop.

“There are perpetrators who are operating together. That is mind-blowing to think that two people would go out with a premeditated plan,” she added.

In one case over Christmas, a woman in Donegal was reportedly raped by two men after she was dragged into a car in a brutal attack.

“The level of violence is much higher. It is one thing that someone should think about it themselves but to plan it with another person is beyond belief,” said Ms O’Malley-Dunlop. In 2001, 158 rapes and sexual assault victims were brought to the Rotunda for treatment while this rose to 315 in 2006.

There is now anecdotal evidence to suggest that hardcore pornography is a factor in the attacks.

“Hardcore pornography is available at the touch of a button — the clients are saying they are being asked to do things which they would never have thought of by partners,” said Ms O’Malley-Dunlop.


“What happens is a desensitisation goes on when people are looking at these images over time. The person doesn’t see the victim as a person but as an object.”

Figures from the Rape Crisis Network Ireland show that of every 100 rapes which occur, just 33 are reported to gardai. Some 11 of these 33 will reach the courts, about seven of which will result in guilty pleas or verdicts.

The Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) report has stated that 64pc of cases of sex attacks were carried out by people known to the victim.

The centre has urged victims to contact its 24-hour national helpline on 1800 778888.

By Shane Hickey Monday January 07 2008