Republic of Ireland news

Protesters call for State to act to protect women ‘in spirit of Brigid'

Stock images of Garda crime scene tape (Niall Carson/PA)
Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

A crowd gathered at the gates to the Irish parliament on Wednesday to call for action to be taken to protect women against violence and oppression.

The rally was held to coincide with St Brigid's Day, with speakers asking that women be protected in the spirit of the Celtic goddess and Christian saint Brigid, who is associated with healing.

Among those who attended the rally were the family of Natalie McNally who read out a poem about violence against women.

Also in attendance were members of the Iranian community, students, representatives of the National Women's Council and feminist activist Ailbhe Smyth.

“It is an emergency, it is an ongoing crisis,” Ms Smyth told those gathered.

“All decent men need to stand up actually along beside us as women, because women have not created this problem, it is up to men to address the problem, and to set about resolving it and stopping the violence and stopping the killings.”

“Wouldn't it be absolutely an incredible achievement for us to begin to see the figures (of women killed) come down rather than increase, and that's my hope on this St Brigid's Day as I think of her as the healer and protector of women.”

Roja Fazaeli, an associate professor in Islamic civilisations at Trinity, said as St Brigid's Day is celebrated, it was important to raise the issues of the oppression of women across the world.

She said that Iranian women and men have backed the feminist movement Woman, Life, Freedom, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last year after, in the “understanding that freedom for women means freedom for all”.

Former TD and Rosa activist Ruth Coppinger criticised members of the far-right who oppose housing asylum seekers by claiming there is a threat to women's safety.

“They don't care about violence against women, their macho behaviour perpetuates violence against women,” she said.

The protest was organised by People Before Profit, and the socialist feminist movement Rosa is to organise another protest at Dublin city's the Spire on March 8 for International Women's Day.

A number of events were held across Ireland on Wednesday and throughout the week to mark St Brigid's Day, including musical and cultural events, lightshows and Brigid's cross-making events.

This year it holds a special significance as the inaugural bank holiday is taking place next Monday, February 6, in honour of the Celtic goddess and Christian saint – who is associated with poetry and nature.

This is the first Irish public holiday named after a woman.

In the Irish parliament, TDs held a minute's silence for peace to coincide with St Brigid's Day and the start of the Celtic festival Imbolc, marking the start of spring.

“Imbolc marks the start of the traditional Celtic new year as we move from winter into a period of light and hope,” Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said.

“In this pause for peace, we're asking people to come together to be inspired by the life of Brigid of Kildare, Brigid the peacemaker, the protector of the natural world, and a formidable force for justice, whose light shines evermore brightly today.”

Republic of Ireland news