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The Bernard Shaw is a well-known site for political activism: murals dedicated to Savita Halappanavar, the Repeal Movement and the homelessness crisis have appeared in recent times alone.

This week saw a spark of anger which turned into a flame following a controversial Cork rape trial in which a female barrister named Elizabeth O'Connell used a 17-year-old woman's underwear as evidence against her.

As a result, #thisisnotconsent protests took place all over the country, with women and men marching with 'I Believe Her' banners in the air.

The Bernard Shaw's latest activist art piece is dedicated to the young woman whose 27-year-old alleged attacker was acquitted of rape following Elizabeth O'Connell's finishing statement.

The barrister urged the jury of eight men and four women to consider the woman's underwear, which happened to be a lace thong, claiming that the woman "was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone".

The Richmond Street South mural shows painted images of various shapes and sizes of underwear, with each branded with the words 'Not Asking For It.' The work was created by Emma Blake, a street artist and graphic designer, also known as Estr.

The mural's appearance is in support of the solidarity rallies which took place this week, urging the government to change the way in which rape trials are conducted.

Women's rights group ROSA wrote that the judicial consideration of the girl's underwear  as evidence was a "disgrace".

ROSA also stated: "These lines of character accusation and victim blaming are unfortunately a common tactic used in cases before the courts relating to sexual violence."

"The judiciary has proven itself time and time again to be utterly damaging to survivors of sexual violence to seek justice."

 Let's hope these crucial protests lead to the necessary changes to Irish law regarding sexual violence.

Feature image: Channel NewsAsia

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It’s an incredibly frustrating aspect of reality that women and girls face constant public sexual harassment daily.

In Tuesday’s report written by MPs on the women and qualities committee in Britain, the issue has now been labelled “urgent” following a nine-month enquiry on the matter.

The report is insisting that the UK government take immediate and effective action to attempt to create a safer public environment for women.

From exercising in public parks and frequenting nightclubs or bars to simply utilising our city’s public transport, women can almost almost claim to have felt the burden of danger in communal spaces of our communities.

Experiences have more recently been shared of extensive experiences of sexual assault and harassment, and there are more accounts than ever of crimes being committed against women in public.

France has recently introduced a law against street harassment which results in on-the-spot fines for predatory comments and harassment such as sexualised remarks and wolf-whistling, after a woman was viciously attacked by a man for confronting him about his offensive behaviour towards her.

The committee has “heard evidence of widespread problems” of both men and boys “sexually harassing women and even girls on buses and trains, in bars and clubs, in online spaces and at university, in parks and on the street.”

The subject of school uniforms was also mentioned in the report, written by cross-party MPs, testifying that girls in their school attires are pressurised to avoid risky situations which "keeps women and girls unequal".

Street harassment has been described in the document as “relentless and becomes ‘normalised’ as girls grow up, contributing to a wider negative cultural effect on society.”

The committee also sets out seven steps which they aim to take in the report, among them is the proposal to force train and bus operators and publican landlords to take tougher measures towards fighting sexual harassment on their premises.

It also requests a public information campaign which is specifically designed to change attitudes, akin to road safety campaigns and first aid programmes.

The British Home Office also states that they view the epidemic problem as a “key priority,” and are devising an updated “Violence against Women and Girls” strategy and scheme.

Writing on public pavements in chalk has become a new pacifistic method for women to fight back, to feel safe in their own cities.

Regardless of government promises to eliminate such prevalent behaviour entirely by 2030, the Women and Equalities Committee concludes negatively that there is currently "no evidence of any programme to achieve this".

Twitter users especially are expressing anger at how ‘obvious’ the headline is, and that there is not a single mention of men in the article, who are by-in-large the major perpetrators of sexual harassment. 

It remains to be seen whether improvements will take place which will finally allow women and girls to feel safe, but the reaction online to the BBC’s headline has been scathing.

Let's hope governments worldwide bring in sharp ways to tackle this highly concerning problem which is so engrained in our culture that many of us have become completely desensitised to it. Safety is a right, not a privilege.

Have a look at BBC’s 100 Women I know video on Street Harassment here:

The Bristol Zero Tolerance group has also written an informative guide on how to respond to street harassment, which you can read here.

Stay safe, gals.

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The number of homeless children at risk has soared according to reports at State chhild-protection watchdog Tulsa. 

This is due to concerns for their welfare and safety.

This comes in the aftermath of a family of five having to sleep in a Garda station for the night when there was no emergency shelter available to them. 

According to The Irish Times, the issue with homeless families having to sleep rough in cars has worsened in recent times.

In correspondence on April 30th from Focus chief executive Pat Dennigan to Minster Zappone, he said that the situation “has deteriorated over the last few weeks”. 

In April, 32 families were left with no choice but to approach Garda stations, as no emergency accommodation beds were available.

“Of these, 12 families (20 children) reported to us the following day they had slept rough, mostly in cars,” Mr Dennigan told Ms Zappone.

Mr Dennigan has explained that he may publish the actual numbers of families that had to report to Garda stations at night each month on their website.

“Our board has repeatedly expressed grave concern for the families in this position and also that our services are being caught in an unacceptable position by the failure of the wider system,” he said.

This is a crisis that looks like it isn't going to be solved any time soon.

Figures emerging from the Department of Housing show a recorded 9,872 people as homeless in June 2018, 3,824 of whom were children.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that he supports President Donald Trump's criticism from the press. 

The remarks were reportedly made at a private lunch held in New York on Monday. 

The event, hosted by Irish Consul General Ciaran Madden, was for young Irish workers across various sectors in New York City.

According to The Times,  when asked what he thought of Trump's attack on the US press, Leo said that the media was not interested in the truth but only in getting a story.

He was particularly scathing of political journalists, who he claimed were more interested in gossip rather than what the Government is actually doing. 

Reportedly a heated exchange followed as other members pointed out that the media had unearthed the Weinstein sexual assault allegations among other controversies. 

Social media had a strong reaction to Leo's comments, as some agreed with the Taoiseach while others were outraged that he had sided with Trump. 

Some were quick to jump to his defence, saying, ''you can criticise the media while supporting free speech. Taoiseach's points taken out of context imo.''

Others were not so understanding, stating that the whole episode was a ''strange, unsettling criticism of the media by our Taoiseach.'' 

According to RTE News, NUJ Irish General Secretary Seamus Dooley said it was ''bizarre'' that the Taoiseach would side with such a divisive political figure. 

Leo later said that his comments were ''taken out of context.''  

A spokesperson said that the Taoiseach "believes that a free, fair and balanced press is a cornerstone of our democracy".

Judging by the furore on Twitter, it seems like Leo might have a bit more explaining to do…

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Each of the 209 women or their next of kin, for those who have passed away, will receive €2000 in compensation.

The government's decision to offer the immediate payment was on the back of Dr Gabriel Scally's progress report.

On Tuesday, the Cabinet discussed the report and adopted the recommendation made by Dr Scally, to provide the money to the affected women. 

Dr Scally is chair of an independent team who are putting together an inquiry.

They are investigating why women were given a false, all-clear on their smear tests. 

The purpose of the payment was to remove any financial obstacles for those women who wanted to contribute to the inquiry.  

In a statement, the Minister of Health, Simon Harris said the compensation is solely to allow voices to be heard and would not impact anyone seeking further payment.

"Following the approval of Government, I am making arrangements for the ex-gratia payment as recommended by Dr Scally. This payment relates to addressing any financial obstacles women might encounter in having their voices heard as part of his work.

It would not be a bar to further payment in due course. I have also requested Dr Scally to identify arrangements that he could put in place as part of his inquiry to undertake the process of structured conversations."

Mr Harris also said the report found that consent forms at the time of smears are "a major strength" in the Irish healthcare programme. 

Additionally, the evaluation also identified areas of improvement for the service, as the Minister said: 

“He does make a number of important recommendations to improve the information provided to women, including strengthening the statements on the limitations of screening. I will immediately ask the HSE to implement the four recommendations related to this."

The report reviewed by the Cabinet is an updated version and is not yet completed. 

The final copy was due at the end of the month, however, it has been forecasted that there will be a delay.

The extra time comes as those affected were asked to come forward on a voluntary basis.

This means Dr Scally has not spoken to the majority of those impacted. 

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The Dáil is set to debate our mental health laws at Leinster House today.

A new Bill from Fianna Fáil is being discussed today, which aims to strengthen the rights of people and children when they're undergoing psychiatric care in hospital.

This will include a debate about including measures in the law which would give patients a say about what care they receive.

'90% of people who go into psychiatric units are there voluntarily, but there's no assessment as to whether or not those people actually have the capacity to make an informed decision and that is wholly unacceptable,'  Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health James Browne told News Talk. 

'What we're trying to do is empower a situation where those people have their rights assessed and enforced.'

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Irish water has been a hot topic in Irish society for some time now.

And a new deal between the government and the Irish Water Committee will reportedly see more than 300,000 new water meters being installed throughout Ireland.

According to the Irish Sun, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are expected to sign off on the deal next week.

Image result for irish water

The new plans will see meters being installed into apartments across the country.

An insider told the publication: "There will only be bulk metering of apartments, that will generate 300,000 extra meters.

"If that occurs, Ireland will have more meters per head of population than the UK.

Image result for irish water

"If that doesn't keep Europe happy we don't know what will."

The Fianna Fáil spokesman on Housing, Planning and Local Government, Barry Cowen, recently said of the water issues:  "The bottom line is that the current water charging regime is defunct."

We'll have to wait and see how this plays out.

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As the so-called Citizens Assembly continues to debate the rights of women, one particular drive is gathering considerable pace. 

#Strike4Repeal is taking place on March 8 – International Women's Day – and everyone is encouraged to get involved.

With video in support of the movement being released this morning, people in Ireland are being asked to strike in support of the many women who have to take time off work in order to travel abroad to access abortion services

"We have one demand to the Government," the video, which features seven different women, states, "call a referendum before the 8th of March – or there will be a national strike."

It adds: "We are asking you to show your solidarity… if a referendum is not called, strike."

It furthermore calls for women to refuse to complete domestic work, and to wear black.

"We won't wait," it concludes.

The official #Strike4Repeal Facebook page explains: "This strike is based on non-traditional strike actions for human rights that we have witnessed in other parts of the world.

"In October of last year, thousands of people in more than 60 cities in Poland went on strike to protect their access to abortion, and won."

The strike will not be an industrial strike in the traditional sense, with the movement stating that "we encourage participants to be imaginative in how they approach the the action". 

"If you can strike, do," it adds. "If it’s possible, book a day off work in advance. 

"Stage an event at 12 noon or on your lunch break to remember the 12 women who have been forced to travel for abortion that day, and every day.

"If you are a business owner, consider giving a day off to your employees or completely closing the business on that day, with no cost to your staff."

It concludes: "We encourage everyone to come up with their own ideas for participation on the day.

"Every person who has an abortion has to take at least a day, whether to travel or stay at home. Use this day to stand in solidarity with them, and demand change."

You can find out more about #Strike4Repeal on the related Facebook and Twitter pages – and make sure to watch the video below:

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OK, so arguably we still have another few weeks of eating and drinking with abandon before having to consider New Year detoxes and stabs at 'clean' diets. 

However, there is also no doubt that sugar is by now a year-round issue. 

Indeed, during 2016 the backlash against it really picked up pace – so much so that family-friendly and health-conscious brands are scrambling to reduce the sugar content in their produce.

From simply cutting down the amount to finding new innovative processes, manufacturers are taking the matter seriously.

Just recently, and partially in response to the Irish government's A Healthy Weight For Ireland plan, Tesco released a statement confirming it has reduced the amount of sugar in all its own-brand soft drinks.

The World Health Organisation advises that our sugar intake should not exceed 5 percent of our total daily calories, including the sugar “hidden” in the foods we eat.

This represents about five to six teaspoons daily. Given that the average Irish person consumes an astonishing 24 teaspoons every single day, there is still a lot to be done to reach the WHO recommendations.

Tesco isn’t the only brand trying to cut down the amount of sugar they use in their food. Between 2000 and 2013, Nestlé reduced the amount of sugar in its products by a third, especially in its range of children’s food.

Recently, the food giant also announced that its in-house scientists had found a method to cut sugar in their chocolate by as much as 40 percent. The exact process, which is being kept a secret, supposedly alters the structure of sugar, making it taste sweeter in smaller amounts; a reduced-sugar chocolate could hit the shelves as early as 2018.

“We want people to get used to a different taste, a taste that would be more natural,” Stefan Catsicas of Nestle explained in an interview with Bloomberg. “We really want to be the drivers of the solution.”

And in the UK, Lucozade, Orangina, and Ribena will all also reduce their sugar content reduced by half in order to avoid forthcoming tax penalties.

According to DailyMail.com, coffee chains Costa, Starbucks, and Caffe Nero are also trying to cut the sugar from their festive drinks, which contain up to 80g of sugar per cup.

In Ireland, we have another year or so before the arrival of the so-called sugar tax: during the Budget 2017 announcement in October, Finance Minister Michael Noonan confirmed that a tax a sugary drinks will be imposed from the spring of 2018 – in line with similar legislation in the UK.

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Whether you went to a Catholic school with the nuns or a liberal non-denominational, having “the talk” has never been easy as a young Irish person.

The focus of most sexual education is purely mechanical, and while contraception is discussed it’s definitely not always an in-depth topic.

That’s why it’s not surprising that new national research of Irish women carried out by HRA Pharma has revealed that 80 percent of Irish women have some serious misconceptions about the morning after pill.

Indeed, 36 percent of Irish women surveyed said that they had heard that the morning after pill works by triggering a “mini-abortion,” which simply isn’t true.

The morning after pill works by delaying an egg’s release, so when the sperm arrives at the fallopian tubes there will be no egg there waiting to consummate the meeting.

It works pretty much just like the regular contraceptive pill, just in an emergency context, but taking the morning after pill wont effect your regular pill either.

A photo posted by Fanny (@fame_paris) on

Women also seemed to think that the morning after pill is hard to find, with almost a quarter of women viewing the pill as being difficult to access.

The pill is available over the counter at almost all Irish pharmacies, including Boots, and there is no prescription necessary unless you need to get it free on the medical card.

There are also plenty of different types of morning after pills to suit whatever stage of post-coitus you’re at.

One of the most serious misconceptions Irish women have is that taking the morning after pill more than once will make them infertile.

“Emergency contraception has no effect on future fertility,” according to HRA Pharma.

More than one in ten (11 percent) of Irish women surveyed also said that they had heard that emergency contraception can be taken any time after having unprotected sex and will still be effective, but like all things that sound too good to be true, this is.

The sooner you use emergency contraception after sex, the more effective it will be, and most pills can only be taken up to five days after the big event.

With all of these misconceptions, along with the sky-high price of the pills in Ireland, it’s no wonder that there is still an associated stigma attached to emergency contraceptives.

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Yes, it's the Budget – and Michael Noonan has now done the honours, standing up in the Oireachtas to announce the financial poa for the nation for 2017.

Wrapping up this afternoon with the words, "it makes sense to avoid the mistakes of the past that could overheat our economy," here, we get to grips with the nitty-gritty detail that will have an impact on your pocket:

Cigarettes: 50c a pack increase

The one-and-only tax increase – a packet is shooting up by 50c from midnight tonight, meaning it will cost €11 for 20 cigarettes.

Alcohol: no tax increase

There has been lots of talk of raising the price of booze recently – but, for now, we can still enjoy €5 bottles of wine.

Property: buyer incentives 

First-time buyers will now get back 5 percent (up to a maximum of €400,000) on the purchase price of their homes until the end of 2019 – but only if they're snapping up new-build residences. 

Kids: affordable scheme

Kicking off in September of next year there will be means-tested subsidies, based on parental income, for children between six months and 15 years –independent.ie says it’ll be worth at least €20 a week.

Teachers: more jobs

An education recruitment drive from next year will aim to establish another 2,400 teaching posts – of which 900 will be resource teachers.

Social welfare: on the up

All welfare payments from the State – dole, pension, carers' allowance, disability allowance etc – will all go up by €5 a week from March.

Universal Social Charge: middle earners rejoice

It's never been a popular one – and now the three lowest rates of USC will be cut; the 5.5 percent, 3 percent, and 1 percent rate bands will be slashed to just 0.5 percent. And medical card holders and those over 70 will now pay a maximum of 2.5 percent USC on their incomes.

Corporate tax rate: holding steady

Despite the recent European Court ruling in relation to Apple's tax affairs in Ireland, the 12.5 percent corporation tax is holding steady for the foreseeable future.

Gardaí: recruitment drive

Some 800 new members of An Garda Síochána will be hired and trained in 2017. Our Defence Forces will furthermore be provided with additional facilities, pensions, housing and equipment.

The Dáil: pay-day

Enda's salary will shoot up by almost €15,000. Travel and subsidies will also increase for TDs.

Sugar tax: introduced

A so-called sugar tax will be applied on high-sugar foods from spring 2018 – in line with similar legislation in the UK. A public consultation process kicks off in January.

Health: more cash

An extra half a billion euro will be handed over health – the largest ever budget applied to the sector.

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The Government's controversial plans to make wine, beer and spirits more expensive has hit something of a speed bump… and now may not be implemented at all. 

Although the proposals have been given the nod by the European Health Commissioner the move may still be illegal in the eyes of Brussels. 

That's because of the European single market – a basis under which some ten mainly alcohol-producing EU countries have now objected to Ireland's plans for more pricey booze. 

Ireland has a per capita consumption of ten litres per annum, a figure which puts us behind the likes of the Czech Republic, Russia, Austria and Lithuania – but globally still very much in the Top Ten drinking nations. 

We currently consume about the same amount as France and Australia.

Whether the proposed bills makes it through the Oireachtas will also largely rest of the success of a similar bid to introduce minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland. 

There, the EU has said that the proposals CAN be implemented on public health grounds – but only if there are no other alternatives. 

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