It’s funny the things that catch people’s attention…No, let me rephrase that. It’s semi-insane what catches people’s attention. Assuming you haven’t been living in a hole in the ground, you’ll know how deeply moved were Enda Kenny, Micheal Martin and Joan Burton by Mairia Cahill’s allegations of rape. Assuming Ms Cahill is telling the truth, it shows that the leaders of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour are sensitive people, able to empathise with those who have (allegedly) suffered.
The semi-insane bit comes as you read a report in The Irish Times less than a week ago. It lists statistics fresh from an organisation called Safe Ireland. It tells how domestic violence services answered over 46,100 help-line calls last year. That’s one every twelve minutes. Safe Ireland works for the prevention of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.
Emergency refuges accommodated nearly 1,800 women and supported over 6,000 women last year. But – and here’s the semi-insane bit – almost 3,500 requests for emergency accommodation were turned down last year because the refuge was full. The head of Safe Ireland, Sharon O’Hanlon, said “We need leadership in this country around this issue”.
So – with desperate women and children being turned away because there is no room at the inn, so to say, where is the leadership to come from? Were there statements from Micheal Martin or Joan Burton this week about the thousands of women assaulted this year and last year and the year before? Was Enda Kenny shown hugging one of the 3,500 turned away because the emergency refuges were filled to the gills and could take no more?
People don’t apply for emergency refuge because they’ve a grudge against their partners or because they have a chance to have their case heard in court and some remedy provided. They apply for emergency refuge because they are desperate. Yet the leaders of the south’s political parties sing mum and instead tell the microphones and cameras how moved they are by the courage of Ms Cahill in making the allegations she’s made. It’s sort of like those South American countries that used erect high sheet fencing between the airport and the capital city so that no one would see the squalor in which so many of their citizens lived. While you can direct attention away from domestic violence that’s happening under your watch and instead get emotional about allegations of sexual violence by one person from Belfast, sure why would you be turning your gaze at a scandal that might reflect badly on you? Which might indicate that really, deep down, you don’t give a damn about anyone’s suffering except there’s a chance it’ll make you look good politically.