Thursday 22 August 2019

Ex-FG senator 'was touched inappropriately three times' as she was canvassing for votes

Former Fine Gael senator Niamh Cosgrave
Former Fine Gael senator Niamh Cosgrave
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A former Fine Gael senator has revealed she was inappropriately touched three times by TDs and councillors while canvassing for votes.

Niamh Cosgrave, who was a senator from 1993 to 1997, has recalled how her father insisted she be accompanied by a male driver for protection while travelling the country seeking support.

Traditionally Seanad candidates make home calls to potential voters in the run-up to the ballot.

"I remember when I was doing the tour to get elected to the Seanad, being warned by my father that some councillors to TDs might try to touch you. He arranged for a male driver to accompany me so that if I ever felt uncomfortable I could leave.

"It happened three times. It started with the knee and 'oh you're a lovely girl'. I'd cross my legs and then they'd touch my thigh," she told the Irish Independent.

Ms Cosgrave, who was a victim of rape later in life, said she regrets not speaking about her experience sooner but felt unable to do so.

She felt compelled to speak out about the treatment of women in politics following the controversy over Barry Walsh's tweets.

She said women needed more protection and called on Mr Walsh to take a sabbatical from Fine Gael's national executive while the party investigates his Twitter posts.

Referencing his attacks on women who favour repealing the Eighth Amendment, Ms Cosgrave said she always considered herself pro-life until she was raped in France in 2012. Her attacker is currently serving 18 years in prison.

"Just after I was raped I remember reading about a bishop in Ireland saying that women who seek an abortion after rape, it's to punish the rapist.

"I was 48, I was still fertile. With all the medication I was sick every morning and I panicked that I might be pregnant.

"I always considered myself pro-life but I thought I cannot carry a baby like this, I'll end up dead. I have absolutely, since my rape, become pro-choice," she said.

Ms Cosgrave said in such cases women should be allowed make a choice in consultation with their doctor. She praised Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell for highlighting Mr Walsh's tweets, saying: "I have enormous respect for her. She has more courage than I have."

Irish Independent

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