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New Lord Mayor: Dublin needs to be a safer and better place to live in 

 Newly elected Alison Gilliland praises Josepha Madigan’s Dáil speech about sexual assaults

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Alison Gilliland, the new Lord Mayor of Dublin, pictured at the Mansion House. Picture by Arthur Carron

Alison Gilliland, the new Lord Mayor of Dublin, pictured at the Mansion House. Picture by Arthur Carron

Former Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu said she did not feel safe walking city streets

Former Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu said she did not feel safe walking city streets

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Alison Gilliland, the new Lord Mayor of Dublin, pictured at the Mansion House. Picture by Arthur Carron

Dublin’s new Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland says she will look at the city over the coming year “through the lens of women, minorities and the LGBT community” in order to make it a safer, more inclusive place to live.

Ms Gilliland commended Fine Gael politician Josepha Madigan’s recent comments that attacks against women are “a lot more common than people believe”. Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Ms Gilliland opened up about her own experience, describing how she was sexually assaulted while out for a morning run when she was living abroad.

“I remember being out running and this man coming towards me and he just grabbed me.
It petrified me. I literally ran and ran and ran,” she said.

The incident happened during daytime and she changed her normal route as a result.

“You are in shock. It is almost like you are asking yourself, ‘How could this happen? Why would somebody do that?’

I don’t think there are many women that would do that to a man. And it is that imbalance of power, too. I can still see him coming towards me – he had a weird grin on his face.”

She didn’t report it to the police at the time because she didn’t feel anything would be done.

 The new Lord Mayor also revealed that she believes she had her drink spiked on a night out in Dublin’s city centre.  “Myself and a friend had very little to drink on a night out with a meal. We went to a bar for a nightcap and had an early night. I remember feeling really ill on the way home. I knew it wasn’t alcohol, or what we had eaten.

“I can’t remember going to sleep but I woke up on the sofa and felt so ill. I texted my friend and she was in the exact same boat. The two of us came to the conclusion that we must have had our drink spiked.”

Women, she says, can feel unsafe when alone in public spaces.

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“I think it is an innate thing perhaps in women that there is always that threat of being attacked.”

Would she feel comfortable walking down some of the capital’s streets alone? “There is a consciousness that I am a woman on my own,” she says. Last January her predecessor, Hazel Chu, said she felt unsafe walking alone in Dublin in an interview with this newspaper.

Ms Gilliland also said she will maintain a focus on the recovery of the city post-Covid-19 through a “winterisation scheme” for outdoor recreation. She will also work to ensure public housing is provided on public lands in the city.

She wants to “rethink the city centre as a place where you can live, raise a family, work and recreate”.

The pandemic has highlighted how “desolate” areas of the city centre have been compared to vibrant satellite towns. “We don’t want people commuting in and out any more. We want people to be able to live here,” she said.

She added her plans to “gender-proof the local authority budget” meant “looking at how we allocate money through a gender lens.From an LGBT perspective, we do great work during Pride month, but that should be all year.

“One of the projects I am trying to work on is the ‘LGBTQI Plus freedom city’ to contradict what is happening in Poland and Hungary.” In those former communist countries, there is a crackdown on LGBTQ rights.

There is also a possibility the city will introduce gender-neutral signs in public spaces. “I have seen it done really well in Japan.  Visibility is a mark of inclusion. It sends a strong message,” Ms Gilliland added.


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