People line the street as the hearse leaves St. Brigid’s Church, County Offaly after the funeral service for Ashling Murphy on January 18, 2022 in Tullamore, Ireland. Picture Credit: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images.

Erasing Irish women

There’s nothing gender-neutral about murder

Artillery Row

Vigils were still being held last week in Ireland for 23 year old Ashling Murphy, the recently qualified primary school teacher who was killed last month when she went for a run along the Grand Canal in Co. Offaly.

Yet on the day of her funeral, when Irish society was voicing how appalled it was by the murder of another woman, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) felt unable to use our name — women — despite having led a public vigil outside Leinster House, the seat of Ireland’s Oireachtas (parliament) for Ashling days earlier.

Some left leaning politicians have joined in the misogynistic bullying

“Even when a person’s periods have stopped or they’re experiencing menopause, they should continue to have regular cervical screenings,” it said that afternoon in a tweet

The NWCI describes itself as the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland.  Using “inclusive” gender-neutral language to exclude women mirrors the language used by our national health service, the HSE. It scrubbed the word “women” from cervical screening information, replacing it with anyone with a cervix”, until an uproar by women caused a grudging partial return of our name.

Others, lamenting the level of violence against women, see no contradiction in denigrating women who dare to challenge gender identity ideology. 

Even some left leaning politicians have joined in the misogynistic bullying, most recently last week when Thomas Pringle TD spoke in the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe

In something of an own goal he declared: “Currently we have problems with TERFs — trans exclusionary radical feminist groups — who attack the rights of trans people to use, for example, the toilet facilities of women, supposedly on behalf of protecting the rights of women.” More ominously he added “Allowing this unchecked on social media amounts to condoning hateful language and incitement, which is in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights.”

Women are seriously under represented in the Dáil (lower house) at just 23 per cent (27.5 per cent in the Oireachtas overall) so we are all the more dependent on having a national women’s representative body which advocates for women, our rights and our needs. 

The NWCI on it’s website explains “By ‘woman’ we refer to any person who identifies as a woman”. Four years ago it was reported that a motion proposed by one trans lobby group and seconded by another was passed at the Council’s AGM to model the inclusion of transgender women in the feminist movement in Ireland”.  

Just over a year ago Sara Phillips, the chairperson of one of these lobby groups the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI,) was elected to the executive board of the NWCI. The NWCI along with TENI signed the now infamous letter in 2020 which demanded that the media and politicians no longer provide legitimate representation for those that share bigoted beliefs,” such as those “that seek to defend biology”.

Our Gender Recognition Act was switched from one with medical gate-keeping to self-id without any consultation with women just six weeks before it was passed in 2015. A report which it’s hoped “will be a powerful tool for activists” reveals that “In Ireland, activists have directly lobbied individual politicians and tried to keep press coverage to a minimum in order to avoid this issue.” 

There are now no less than three significant pieces of upcoming legislation which will further embed gender identity ideology in Ireland as well as proposals to extend legal gender recognition to children under 16 and to the “non-binary”. 

The rights of women and girls in Ireland look likely to be sacrificed to appease the ideologues of gender identity

Traditional media outlets have largely avoided this topic to date. One attempt last year by The Irish Times to present the concerns of three health professionals regarding the proposed ban on conversion therapy was met with a boycott of the paper spearheaded by the Trans Writers Union which demanded that the paper “withdraw and apologise” for the piece. 

TENI sniffily maintained that boycott last weekend (29th Jan) by refusing to provide a comment even when the paper ran another positive article, this time featuring two young people, one aged 13. TENI, a company limited by guarantee and not a charity, is funded largely by Ireland’s health service, yet promotes breast binding for teenage girls.

The new grassroots women’s groups which have sprung up in the last 18 months disprove the proffered narrative that Ireland is happily accommodating “self-id”. Growing numbers of women see the need to protect our spaces and defend our name “women” from encroachment by men which will corrupt statistics needed for public policy formulation. Already there are three men in Limerick women’s prison who will be counted in our female prisoner statistics.

As has been said many times to rebut male defensiveness since Ashling Murphy was murdered, it’s “not all men”, but it is all women who have to take precautions from childhood onwards to protect ourselves from men who might cause us harm. 

A commitment to amend the “gender ground” in our equality legislation which currently protects women on the basis of our sex was given in the Programme for Government in 2020. The National LGBTI+ Inclusion Strategy 2019 -2021 had sought a review of this legislation to ensure that it “provides explicit protection to transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex people”. 

The Consultative Committee for the strategy, as with similar committees on this issue, was composed of civil servants and members of several activist groups but the NWCI was not included. A public consultation inviting written views was only held late last year. In November a Freedom of Information request revealed that the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth had no records of any impact assessment having been carried out on the proposed change.

Without rigorous policy making and balanced media reportage the rights of women and girls in Ireland look likely to be sacrificed to appease the ideologues of gender identity.

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