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femicide Deirdre Reynolds: Men of Ireland, it's time to pick a side

Male violence against women is in the spotlight

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Candles are pictured after a vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy in Tullamore town Park, County Offaly (Damien Eagers/PA)

Candles are pictured after a vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy in Tullamore town Park, County Offaly (Damien Eagers/PA)

Candles are pictured after a vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy in Tullamore town Park, County Offaly (Damien Eagers/PA)

For some, it's a house key, the more jagged the better.

For others, it's a personal safety alarm ready to shriek at the touch of a button.

Mine is a discrete black spray bottle bought on wish.com posing as perfume.

Buried as it is at the bottom of my handbag, it's about as useful as it is legal in a moment of danger, but it's just some of the armour we women use to fool ourselves in these scary times.

The heart-breaking murder of Ashling Murphy in Tullamore on Wednesday put the pandemic of male violence against women that has now claimed 244 lives in Ireland since 1996 back into sharp focus.

As the nationwide vigils wind down and an online book of condolence closes this Friday, it's her mother and father, Kathleen and Raymond, siblings, Cathal and Amy, and boyfriend, Ryan, who are left the unbearable, lifelong job of processing a personal tragedy that moved each and every one of us this week.

And how do you even begin to explain to a group of six and seven year-olds that their beloved teacher isn't coming back because evil has now infiltrated their happy-go-lucky worlds?

Still, as women, it was impossible not to imagine ourselves at the heart of the injustice which took place on a stretch of walkway named after another of Ireland's stolen daughters, Fiona Pender.

To ask, with no hyperbole at all, as we laced up to go for a run or walk the dog: Am I next?

We wanted to scream about a casual misogyny so deeply embedded in society that so much as labelling it pokes the bear; to fume about a soft-touch justice system that allows alleged woman beaters to walk out of our courts on €200 bail; to tell the law-makers we've entrusted to do something about it that we're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore.

Instead, we cried and lit candles at the achingly familiar unfairness of it all.

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But, this time, we also quietly resolved that enough is enough.

That we will make no apologies for calling gender-based violence by its name.

Or qualify our statements that we know "it's not all men" when we mean "it could be any".

It's time now to deploy the pepper spray and sound the rape alarms that have been buried in the bottom of our bags for years.

To finally let our anger, sadness and fear breathe irrespective of who it upsets.

To pound pavements any time, anywhere, while asking more of our partners, colleagues, fathers, brothers and sons, because - she was just going for a run.

And because, men of Ireland, if you're not with us, you're against us.
 

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