'Violaton' | 

Local councillor who was target of sexual harassment says Government ‘failed victims’

Cllr Deirdre Donnelly told her story on national radio last year.

Councillor for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Deirdre Donnelly

Maeve McTaggartSunday World

A local politician who was the target of sexual harassment says the Government “has failed so many victims”.

Cllr Deirdre Donnelly revealed on RTÉ’s Liveline last year that she had been assaulted at a political event by a public representative.

Despite making recommendations to the Government and the Department of Justice on how to better respond to sexual violence, the Independent councillor for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown says “the majority of TDs and Senators do not seem to be motivated in anyway to reform the justice system”.

Ms Donnelly is “particularly concerned” about how Minister for Justice Helen McEntee approaches allegations of sexual harassment.

“I have been failed by the justice system and the political system,” she says in a statement.

“The Minister for Justice is not addressing these issues and yet she is hosting a conference for her peers from Council of Europe states.”

This week, the conference arrived in Dublin to discuss how to prevent and end violence against women.

Ms Donnelly has said the move is “quite hypocritical” to have “a Minister and a government who have failed so many victims to be hosting it.”

The politician says she offered a number of reforms to the Government at the time to correct a system she believes “is totally on the side of the accused.”

They included better Garda training and legal advise for victims and a better system of the DPP informing victims whether they will prosecute or not.

Her primary concern was the access an alleged perpetrator can have to the victim’s counselling records.

"People don’t believe this, but a victim’s personal counselling records can be subpoenaed in certain cases. This poses a huge invasion of privacy and is a violation of human rights.”

The local councillor brought her experience to the attention of Oireachtas members last year after her complaints to the perpetrator’s political party were not handled “adequately".

Women cannot be encouraged to enter politics when “there are no guidelines on code of conduct and no support if a woman politician is assaulted,” she added.

Ms Donnelly appeared on RTÉ’sLiveline last year to share her story.

"I was at an event and there was an individual. I barely knew this person and he kept rubbing himself up against me,” she told listeners.

"I don’t think people realise what it’s like to be in a crowded place and someone is doing something to you and you don’t know whether to scream.”

The local councillor described the situation as “frightening”.

"It got so bad that I had to shout at him to leave me alone in front of everyone. They all stopped and looked over, I was so embarrassed and I left which I shouldn’t have had to do.”

The man followed her into the hotel lift and insisted on joining her to her room. Instead, she “ran down the corridor” to get away, sustaining a fall in the process.

On the radio programme, she said women should “not complain and just move on”.

"I stupidly made the mistake of putting faith in our justice system and at the end of the day, the justice system can be a lot worse.”

"Every step of the way there was nobody on my side,” she said.

Speaking in a statement today, the local councillor urged the Government and the Minister for Justice to “take a critical look” at how complaints can be better dealt with, especially as Dublin is “in the spotlight” with the recent conference.

Ireland hosted the two-day event as part of Irish Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in co-operation with the Council of Europe.

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