“We now have a situation where sex for rent is becoming a reality for a lot of tenants. We don’t have data in this country but in England, the Shelter organisation reports 250,000 women have been propositioned by landlords in this way.
“I’ve had a young woman who was renting a bedsit, in all but name, in the Rathmines area, who was a victim of this and I’d like you to listen to some of the messages that she was sent.
“When she said she had to leave as the rent was too expensive, the landlord said ‘are you coming to live with me in my house?’
“She said ‘are you being serious?’ and he replies ‘yes, I think you’re beautiful. Maybe you could stay there for two months at half money and we go for dinner and see what happens’.
“When she rejected this, he said ‘I’ll make you a better offer. You can stay for free until Christmas if we can agree something. Now, I have the text messages here and I seriously think that it’s high time that we collated data in this country because you’ve allowed a situation where young women, in very vulnerable situations, thankfully she was able to move on, could actually be put under undue stress and pressure because the landlords rule in this Dáil and you’ve done nothing about it.”
In response, the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said earlier this year, the Government enacted “the most substantial reform for protecting tenants that had been enacted since we brought in rent controls in the first place”.
In relation to the specific case raised by Ms Coppinger, he said:
“That sounds disgusting and a horrible thing for someone to have to go through. It is absolutely a matter for the gardai and a criminal matter and I hope it is being addressed in that way.
“But in relation to the wider point you make – and research being done in the UK – I will of course talk to the Minister for Justice about what might be possible in relation to these types of situations women might be finding themselves in because it’s reprehensible.”
Ruth Coppinger raising the cases of women denied abortions for medical reasons (in similar vein to the Coombe case she raised last month). Offers detail of one case with only a 15% prospect of safe delivery; as she was beyond 12 weeks she couldn’t access termination here
Varadkar reluctant to comment on individual cases but does point out that the Oireachtas drew a distinction between allowing abortion in cases of fatal abnormality, versus those of *severe* abnormalities or conditions causing disability
From top: The Coombe; Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger; People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith; Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl
In the Dáil, during Questions on Promised Legislation – which were taken by Tánaiste Simon Coveney.
Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger and People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith spoke about a pregnant woman Emma Connors, from Clondalkin, Dublin, whom they say has been refused a termination at the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital in Dublin, despite two consultants certifying that she needed a termination for a fatal foetal abnormality.
Ms Coppinger said the board of the hospital overruled the two consultants’ direction and asked her to wait four weeks to see if she has a spontaneous miscarriage.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl repeatedly asked the two politicians not to discuss a person’s medical situation during the Questions on Promised Legislation segment.
During her contribution, Ms Coppinger said:
“At 13 weeks this woman went for her 12-week scan. They could clearly see at that point that the organs of the foetus were outside of the body. They brought her back a week later where that was fully confirmed when they got a better image.
“One doctor, her consultant, and then another consultant was brought in and he said ‘yes, this is a fatal foetal abnormality’. But then, a week later, it went to the board. And the board have overruled that.
“…This is about the law…Ceann Comhairle, if you don’t mind..this is about…this is the second….a main maternity hospital in the capital city of this country is refusing this woman her constitutional rights when two doctors certify what is very clearly a fatal foetal abnormality.
“And it would seem to me that it’s because of the chilling effect of criminalisation that maternity hospitals are acting in this way. And don’t forget the Rotunda is only enforcing the law to 11 weeks which the minister has written to them about.
“I’m asking you to get the minister to meet this woman today. She should not have to pay to travel [to the UK] which is what she’s talking about doing if she doesn’t have her constitutional rights affirmed.”
Ms Smith said:
“I spoke to this woman last night. Emma Connors, she’s from Clondalkin. She’s pregnant on a much-wanted baby but she has been told by her doctors: you can go to England.
“Her words to me were: ‘this is not what I voted for, I have constitutional rights’. Now what are you Tánaiste [Simon Coveney] are you doing to do about it today? Not next week, today. She finds it hard to sleep, knowing that the condition, that her much-wanted child is in and she wants a termination. She’s entitled to it, this country voted for it.”
The Ceann Comhairle said:
“We cannot and will not have, in this chamber, a situation in which individual cases are brought up here and ministers called upon to adjudicate or comment upon medical situations. It is completely… the law is one thing, discussing individual medical circumstances is not appropriate, not appropriate, not in order.”
Simon Coveney said:
“The law is now clear in this area. The Government with the support of many in this house passed legislation in a way that was consistent with what we promised we would do in the context of the referendum that was taken.
“So the law is clear. But I agree with the Ceann Comhairle. I don’t think it’s appropriate, deputy, to raise a tragic case of somebody who is clearly under a lot of stress and this case needs to be dealt with appropriately by doctors in a hospital. Not on the floor of the Dáil.”
Ms Smyth told Mr Coveney the woman wanted it to be raised and she wanted to be named.
The Ceann Comhairle then said:
“Deputy, there are patients in hospitals across the country that might want various circumstances that they find themselves in, distressed, discussed here on the floor of the house, it hasn’t happened and it’s not going to happen now…you’ve raised your point, you’ve made your point, you’re out of order, you’re out of order, you’re out of order…”
JUST IN: Coombe Hospital says in a statement that its Board and Directors “has no role whatsoever in certifying a termination of pregnancy”. It says reports that the Board had a role in certifying whether abortion could be carried out are “untrue”.
Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger at the Spire on Dublin’s O’Connell Street on Wednesday; Ms Coppinger in the Dáil on Tuesday
A criminal trial in Ireland, in which the lawyer of a man accused of rape cited the lacy underwear worn by a woman as a sign of her consent, has ignited outrage across the country and beyond.
During the closing argument, the defense lawyer asked the jury to consider the underwear worn by the 17-year-old woman at the time prosecutors said she was raped in a muddy alleyway by a 27-year-old man.
“Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone?” the lawyer asked, according to The Irish Times. “You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”
The man was acquitted, and the case immediately drew calls for accountability and sparked a national dialogue about consent and victim blaming. Hundreds of women and men with posters and lace underwear in hand protested in five cities across the country on Wednesday.
Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger raised the taking down of artist Maser’s Repeal the 8th mural from the Project Arts Centre yesterday.
It was removed after the Charities Regulator informed the centre the artwork is “political activity” and that, as a consequence, the centre is in breach of the Charities Act 2009.
Ms Coppinger, and fellow TD Paul Murphy, held up copies of the mural, as she said:
“I would just like to know what the Taoiseach and others think is so offensive about this – that it should be banned by a State body. And would you agree with me, that we should challenge that… and we should say ‘no, there’s nothing wrong with a heart that calls for repeal’ and there’s nothing… we should not allow political censorship.”
Before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar could respond, Tánaiste Simon Coveney could be heard saying across the chamber:
“Stupid stunts like that do nothing to inform…”
Varadkar says he has no doubt a pro-life or Vote No mural would also have been subject to the same decision, and suggests that another private building owner might commission it to appear there instead #Dail
Scenes from inside the Dáil chamber after Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave his resignation speech, followed by speeches about Kenny’s tenure from party leaders and party representatives.
Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger raised the case highlighted in yesterday’s Irish Times by Kitty Holland.
About how a young pregnant girl, who was at risk of suicide, was sectioned – after she sought an abortion.
Ruth Coppinger: “Taoiseach, honesty in politics is important so I’m not going to engage in fake, back-slapping. I will congratulate you on writing your own speech which I believe you did. I was a bit bemused at you mentioning Michael Davitt, a revolutionary and a socialist but we’ll leave that aside.
“In summing up your legacy, Taoiseach, I could focus on six years on unprecedented austerity, suffered by the many to bail out the few or the massive homeless and health crisis that you’re laving in your wake. Or indeed the crisis in the gardai and in the State.
“But, in the short time I have and the day that’s in it, I’ll pick one issue that sums up completely the type of Ireland that you and the establishment that you’ve so ably represented have bequeathed in the five decades you’ve been in the Dáil. And that is the incarceration, internment and imprisonment of a vulnerable, pregnant teenager, who asked for an abortion and who asked for help.
“And although we know little of the circumstances, we do know this: A pregnant child shouldn’t be forced to have a child. A pregnant child, in legal terms, is a raped child. The pregnant person best knows how they feel about being pregnant. And, Taoiseach, people around the country are comparing this outrage are comparing this to an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
“Twenty-five years ago, this nation rose up at the incarceration of a teenage rape victim but it’s still happening under your watch because you did nothing to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.
“The much heralded Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act that you and the Labour party boast about has proven impossible for any suicidal person to access an abortion because they’re put through an inquisition. Their feelings are ignored and their rights to bodily and mental autonomy are completely ignored. And this happened last year. We do not know what happened to this girl, whether she succeeded in getting an abortion or whether she was forced to remain pregnant.
“Now Taoiseach, we’ve a history in this country, it’s been mentioned today, of incarcerating pregnant women and girls and we thought that that era was over but many people have been outraged over what they’ve found out over the last 24 hours – that a psychiatrist would have the power, with their own views, to section a girl for the crime of wanting not to be pregnant.
“It seems it’s an illness warranting being locked up, to want an abortion. Not alone that, Taoiseach, but it appears a judge adjudicated and heard this case and awarded a guardian to the girl and, wait for it, her foetus. Now…”
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl: “I don’t want to interfere with any member’s contribution today. But I’m afraid you’re venturing into territory that is completely at odds with the business that’s before us today.”
Coppinger: “With the legacy of the Taoiseach?”
Ó Fearghaíl: “I, you’re talking about a specific case which none of us have full information.”
Coppinger: “Yeah. I, ok, thank you, Ceann Comhairle, I’ll bear that in mind. I’m going by the information that we do have and I’m just generalising now. So, not alone that Taoiseach, a judge adjudicated on the case, as I said. But Taoiseach, you’re going and what I hope is the reactionary policies are going with you. That the backwardness that was visited on young people in this country for so many decades will also go. You’ve had your time, hopefully we’ll have a different time.
“That the yearning there is for a different type of society among young people in particular, can be brought about. And, in finishing Taoiseach, I hope we see a movement now to bring about the separation of Church and Stateand the type of legislation that gives the person involved the right to make this decision for themsevels. And, hopefully, that movement won’t take very long.
“With your new incumbent, we’ll find out but I certainly would encourage people to actively ensure that it happens because we can’t trust the people in this Dail to ensure that these cases don’t happen again.”
From top: Irish Times Health Correspondent Paul Cullen; Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly and health correspondent at The Irish Times Paul Cullen
You may recall the publication last week of Judge Maureen Harding Clark’s report on the symphysiotomy redress scheme.
And some of the subsequent criticism of both and the report and the media coverage of the report.
Senior lecturer at Birmingham Law School, Mairéad Enright wrote:
[Judge Clark’s report] is not the independent report survivors of symphysiotomy are entitled to under human rights law. The media have read it as diminishing SOS’s claim that the non-emergency substitution of symphysiotomy for Caesarean section without consent, as practiced in Ireland, violated many women’s human rights. However, this coverage has been insufficiently critical of this report.
“…It is a mistake to think of the story of symphysiotomy as one about ‘bad doctors’. It is a story about bad systems of knowledge, and bad cultures, which corner women, induce compliance, deny their autonomy and thereby wound them. Those cases are extraordinarily difficult to litigate because the assumptions which drive the old system persist in judicial reasoning and are exacerbated by an adversarial framing.”
“Outside the courtroom, we can find the same problems. What is striking about this report is that it uses constructs from those systems and cultures – valorising reproduction however painful, stoking a suspicion of women who claim their human rights, privileging medical literature over first person testimony – to silence protest. It deserves closer, and more critical reading and discussion.”
Further to this.
Yesterday, Independent 4 Change TD Clare Daly and Anti Austerity Alliance TD Ruth Coppinger raised Judge Harding Clark’s report and the media coverage – with Ms Coppinger naming Irish Times journalist Paul Cullen.
Clare Daly: The Harding Clark report into the symphysiotomy redress scheme has been described as deeply skewed, profoundly unfair, subjective and selective, intellectually dishonest, morally bankrupt, replete with false allegations, omissions, distortions, misrepresentations and contradictions, and biased throughout. Those who said that are being soft on Judge Harding Clark whose report cannot go unchallenged or uncorrected. She goes way beyond the terms of reference of her assessor report to the Minister for Health when all she was asked to do was deal with the activities and expenditure of the scheme. Instead, she deviated into personal and unsubstantiated commentary, which is highly inappropriate in the context of outstanding litigation. Her report is riddled with false allegations, such as alleging that leading campaigners against symphysiotomy had alleged they had the procedure when they had not. That is completely and utterly untrue.”
“The only interpretation one can draw from this report is that it is a defence of the uniquely Irish practice of non-emergency symphysiotomy. It serves to diminish survivors’ claims and is a further violation of those women’s human rights. Symphysiotomy as practised in Ireland is a human rights abuse and that is the case regardless of this report. There can be no denying that the State has been culpable in this but rather than address these matters honestly, the report has served to diminish the suffering caused and undermined the experiences of the women. There is a continued suggestion that the women were lying. Nobody who met these women could ever believe that.”
“Of course, Judge Harding Clark met hardly any of them. It was a paper review with no right to appeal any of her decisions. It was her opinion and her opinion only. It is hugely traumatic for the women involved that this horrific report has been published. I believe the Minister needs to intervene to have it withdrawn. It is hostile in its tone and it smears and discredits survivors rather than dealing with a bad and deliberate policy and a poorly-administered scheme. It needs to be withdrawn and we need clarification on this matter.”
Ruth Coppinger: “I, too, have been absolutely appalled by the media coverage and the commentary of certain people in the media in the last week in response to this report. I agree that the methods of assessment were defective. I agree with Deputy Daly on the policy of Judge Harding Clark of taking oral evidence and meeting only a handful of the women involved. If she had met more, she would have seen for herself some of the injuries and limping, etc., that these women endure. Using contemporaneous radiology in one particular case, the judge stated that a 2004 X-ray did not show injuries to the women and that therefore the injury had happened afterwards. The judge went way beyond her brief, showed her own bias and showed contempt for these women. I believe it is absolutely vital that this Dáil and the Government agrees to set aside time to have a proper analysis of this report.”
“There are a couple of myths that the report tries to knock down. The first is that symphysiotomy was a normal procedure practised in many countries, as argued by Paul Cullen, for example, in The Irish Times. In 1944, there were four of these operations in the national maternity hospital. In 1948, there were 43. That was because of the arrival of Dr. Alex Spain, an arch-Catholic, as head of the hospital, who refused caesarean sections and said that their result would be contraception, the mutilating operating of sterilisation and marital difficulty. It is utterly wrong to say that. They also argue that symphysiotomy was not dangerous. Clearly, it was. It was not a benign procedure. It was not used in other countries as a first resort; it was used as a last resort. This is the third whitewash report there has been. It is a disgraceful indictment of the system that it does this to women who were brutalised in Catholic Ireland of the past.”
Daly: “I have to say that there has been a certain rewriting of history again. We know that the majority of survivors never accepted this redress scheme to begin with. The Minister of State is dodging the key elephant in the room, which is that this report goes one step even further from that. It is riddled with factual inaccuracies, unverifiable anecdotes and is severely damaging. It is well known that people experience trauma and upset as victims of abuse if their stories are not believed. The report is done in a manner which disbelieves the testimony of the women involved. It makes outrageous claims. We know that not one woman anywhere submitted that she had consented to or was aware of that procedure, yet the judge said that she found it very difficult to believe that is the case. There is no evidence to support her view in that situation. This is the same judge who, when awarding payments previously, told the women they were getting the money to redress their “unhappy experience”. This was deliberate butchery that was carried out on people for ideological reasons.”
“What the report shows is a deliberate undermining of the human rights campaigners and groups whose work actually led to the setting up of this scheme to begin with, bad and all as it is. I remind the Minister of State that it took a former Minister to go to court to get the Guerin report withdrawn. We know the McAleese report into the Magdalen laundries was hugely criticised and controversial. The point that is being made here is that this document cannot stand. In and of itself, it abuses the women involved. It has to be withdrawn and considered further by this House.”
Coppinger: “There has been an attempt by the Catholic right to seize on this highly flawed report to argue against the whole question of Catholic control of maternity hospitals. There is no question that this was done and motivated by a Catholic medical theology. It is also argued very patronisingly that these women did not know the difference between a caesarean section, a symphysiotomy or anything else that was happening to them.I know women were kept in ignorance but I think most women would know if they had their pelvic bones broken.”
“The scheme relied on written and radiological evidence which was extremely unfair because proving a symphysiotomy happened over 50 years ago is incredibly difficult if medical records do not exist. In that sense, the scheme militated against the older women and some younger women were able to pursue their claims successfully. The fact there were 185 unsuccessful applications does not mean that 185 symphysiotomies were not carried out. As I said, it was difficult to prove. People were also only given 20 days to apply to the scheme which is highly restrictive in the context of gathering up information.”
“There is no way that this Dáil could or should stand over this report. A debate must take place in this Chamber to question the rationale of Judge Harding Clark.”
A full transcript of AAA-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger’s exchange in the Dáil concerning the holding of a referendum on the Eighth Amendment [banning abortion in Ireland] with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
A small tay.
Deputy Ruth Coppinger: “On Saturday the Taoiseach was 50 metres away from an historic demonstration – the 25,000 strong, predominantly youthful March for Choice which took place in Dublin and called for the holding of a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment abortion ban, something he has continually tried to avoid, despite all the polls which show a huge demand for it.
At the end of the protest the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs posited the idea that we might need something to replace the eighth amendment in the Constitution. Does the Taoiseach agree with her and, if so, why?
Why, following the tragedies and the folly of putting something in the Constitution equating a woman with a foetus, would he seriously contemplate putting something else in to police women’s bodies? There is nothing normal about putting anything about abortion or women’s health in a constitution. I am aware of only one other country that has done it. It was done in Chile under the murderous military dictator General Pinochet.
On behalf of women and young people in this country, I ask the Taoiseach not to go there. He has been a Member of the House for 41 years, since 1975.
During that time he has taken part in important decisions affecting women. A total of 165,000 women have had to travel outside the State for an abortion while he has been a Member of the Dáil. Did he give those women a second thought when he was debating these crucial decisions?
In what could be one of his final acts as Taoiseach, I ask him to break a pattern of more than four decades of him being on the more backward, conservative side of all these vital decisions in the Dáil.
He was in the House to vote in favour of the eighth amendment in 1983. Did he have any qualm at all having heard the reservations of the Attorney General at the time and many others? He was here to vote in favour of the “off you go” clauses in 1992 on travel and information and, crucially, was leader of the country when a pivotal event happened when a women needlessly died in a Galway hospital, having asked for and been refused an abortion.
He could have ensured that would never happen again in this country, but that is not the case now. He ignored the pleas of Savita’s parents, for example, to introduce a law to protect women’s health, but rather than repeal the eighth amendment, he chose to criminalise women for having abortions.
Will he, for the first time, listen to and trust women to make these decisions for themselves? Will he agree that it has been proved that the Constitution is not the place in which to decide on these issues and that, ultimately, the church and the State have to stay out of personal decisions?
We all know that there will be a referendum. Will he make sure that it will be to repeal, not amend, the eighth amendment?”
Enda Kenny: “I thank the Deputy. She described the insertion of the amendment in the Constitution as a “tragedy”. Unfortunately, the Constitution belongs to the people. I happened to be in the House to legislate for the first time in 30 years for what the Constitution meant, as interpreted by the Supreme Court. I have listened to the many tragic stories of women in recent times.
That is why it is entirely appropriate that 99 citizens, men and women of different age groups, are coming together from locations around the country to tease out the questions surrounding the eighth amendment, under the chairmanship of the Supreme Court judge, Ms Justice Laffoy, who I am sure will do a first-class job. It is in everybody’s interest that there be a sensitive, rational and comprehensive discussion about this and that is the purpose of the citizens’ assembly.
I am glad its first meeting will take place on 15 October and that everybody, on all sides of an argument that has divided Irish society very bitterly for 30 years or more, can make their contributions and have their say.
When the assembly provides its recommendations the issue will come back here to this House. Depending on the outcome of the recommendations, Members of the Oireachtas will vote according to their conscience on where we proceed from here.
We are having a citizens’ assembly to address the many sensitive issues that have arisen from the stories people are confronted with on a regular basis.
I spoke to some of the people on the march on Saturday and they made their views very clear but there are many divided opinions on this subject and I expect to hear them all over the coming months while the assembly goes about its business. In Ireland in 2016, it is very reasonable to allow people on all sides to make their contribution on an issue that is and always has been divisive.”
Ms Coppinger: “The Taoiseach said he set up the citizens’ assembly to hear stories but we have ample stories and he commented on none of the questions I put about his own role in this House over four decades on these issues. We heard the stories of two women who were travelling and I know they tweeted the Taoiseach, although I do not think he tweeted anything back.”
The Minister for Health offered them tea and sympathy while sending them out of the country and I know the Taoiseach has been tweeted on many issues related to women’s reproductive rights, on which he has refused to comment.
We can win a repeal of the eighth amendment without any further restriction, which is what I fear is being cooked up in the form of restrictive legislation being put into the Constitution or an amendment to the eighth amendment. The Taoiseach keeps denying the results of opinion polls but he has set up a 99-person opinion poll in the form of the citizens’ assembly. All the opinion polls show that 73% of people want a referendum held and 80% believe health is a key issue.
When people talk about “repeal” and wear T-shirts bearing the word, as they did on Saturday, they don’t mean “revoke” or “make null and void”. They do mean “replace” or “amend”. I say this lest there be any confusion on the part of the Taoiseach or among his Ministers. That is what people marched for and that is what they will get.”
Mr Kenny: “I fully respect the view of the Deputy but it is not a black and white situation. The T-shirts may be black and have white writing on them but this is about people and people have different views.
Some 20,000 or 30,000 may have marched at the weekend but we have the citizens’ assembly to allow people to have their say and all people are entitled to have their say. Everybody has a personal opinion about this but it was a Government decision, endorsed here by the Oireachtas, to set up the citizens’ assembly.
I admire the courage of the 99 who have stepped forward to participate in the discussion. It is not an easy thing for many of them to do, given the nature of the divisive response that can come from participating in something like this.
The hearings will be streamed live and I hope that everybody, at home and abroad, can listen to the conversations and have their views heard. I hope that, under the direction of Ms Justice Laffoy, the recommendations will come back here to the Oireachtas and we can move on from there.”