Friday 20 September 2019

TD holds up thong in Dáil with demand for action on 'rape myths'

Action: Ruth Coppinger holds up a thong in the Dáil chamber as she urges Government to stop ‘rape myths’ being used in court
Action: Ruth Coppinger holds up a thong in the Dáil chamber as she urges Government to stop ‘rape myths’ being used in court
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Ruth Coppinger held up a thong in the Dáil while arguing that the Government needs to take action to stop "rape myths" being used in court cases.

The TD showed the Taoiseach the piece of black underwear in a bid to convince him to introduce "massive legal changes". The Solidarity TD was referencing a case in Cork Circuit Criminal Court last week where the senior counsel for the defence remarked on the fact the 17-year-old complainant was wearing a thong.

Jury members were told to consider the way the teenager was dressed, "wearing a thong with a lace front".

The jury of eight men and four women went on to reach a unanimous not-guilty verdict.

Ms Coppinger claimed the Dáil "hasn't taken sexual assault and harassment any way serious enough".

She acknowledged that she could not comment on the verdict in the case - but the lessons of the trial must be learned.

The Dublin West TD said: "Eight months ago, thousands of people took to the streets following the Belfast so-called rugby rape trial. We protested the treatment of the young woman involved at her clothing being passed around the jury."

She said proceedings like the Cork rape trial had a "chilling effect" that prevented victims coming forward.

"The 17-year-old was put in the dock for her choice of underwear," she said. The TD added that the barrister was inferring "she was asking for it".

"The women of this country are getting a little weary at the routine victim-blaming that is going in Irish courts, and the failure of law-makers in this House to do anything about it," Ms Coppinger added.

The Solidarity TD then held up the item of underwear. The Oireachtas television channel immediately switched its camera angle so that viewers could not see what she was holding.

She said it may be incongruous to present underwear in the Dáil - but she wanted to highlight the incongruity of it being in a court room.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accepted that some tactics used in court should not happen. But he noted that the current Dáil has taken a number of steps to improve the supports in place for victims of gender violence which included new legislation against domestic violence.

"It's never the victim's fault," the Taoiseach insisted - irrespective of the setting or other factors such as alcohol intake, or clothing being worn.

Mr Varadkar said a study under legal expert Tom O'Malley was being carried out.

Irish Independent

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