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09th May 2024

‘Politics has become more challenging especially for women’

Kat O'Connor

Irish women are all too familiar with the risks of going out alone

There have been way too many moments when I’ve felt unsafe in Dublin and it is mainly when I’m alone.

For women, the city changes drastically once the sun sets and it feels like it’s only getting worse.

We can’t help but wonder if we will ever feel safe in the place we call home.

Personally, I only started feeling safe enough to walk home from my office once the evenings got brighter. Otherwise, I’d be a nervous wreck, constantly looking over my shoulder with my keys gripped in my hand.

The city isn’t a safe place for women and the latest warning to women out canvassing proves that.

Women who are canvassing for the upcoming local and European elections have been warned not to go out alone.

See Her Elected teamed up with Women for Election and An Garda Síochána to launch a guide for election candidates.

The main focus is on the safety of the women canvassing because of a concerning increase in threats and attacks.

Dr Michelle Maher, Programme Manager, See Her Elected said:

“We expect political debate as part of elections and of local and national government. But increasingly, especially online, this crosses over into unacceptable behaviours, threats, or attacks. Civility in political debate and dialogue is essential to our democracy and essential to creating an environment where more women feel safe to run for election.

“We need measures in place to ensure that those elected by the public to serve their interests can do so in safety.”

“That’s just part of life as a woman”

One woman who is aware of just how dangerous it can be for female politicians is Lisa Chambers. Chambers is running in the European Parliament elections for Fianna Fáil this year but said politics has become increasingly challenging for women.

“Politics has become more challenging, especially for women. It is accepted female public representatives and candidates get more abuse, particularly online. In terms of canvassing, generally, you would have someone with you anyway and you wouldn’t be out alone.

“From a safety perspective being a woman you are more conscious of not being anywhere alone in a dark area, I don’t think this is confined to canvassing, I think that’s just part of life as a woman.” 

Chambers has summed up the danger many of us feel too perfectly. We’re all aware of how hard it is to be a woman, but that fear when you’re alone is like no other.

It stems from a haunting history of women being mistreated in Ireland that we’ll likely never shake.

Superintendent Seán Fallon of the Garda National Community Engagement Bureau said:

“An Garda Síochána has appointed Liaison Inspectors in each of our divisions nationwide to help keep all those participating in the forthcoming elections safe while campaigning.

This safety guide offers advice to female politicians on how best they can protect themselves and their election teams.

It’s reassuring to see the Gardaí team up with See Her Elected and Women for Election take a stance when it comes to female politicians’ safety. However, we need the government to do the exact same when it comes to all women in Ireland.