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 Header Item Business Insurance: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)
 Header Item Period Poverty: Motion

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 8

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Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath I thank all Deputies who contributed to the debate. The debate is not what is important. What is important is what follows. I want the Minister of State to use this debate as leverage to get more support and more movement on some of the key issues involved. It is a concern that there were no Ministers from the Departments of Justice and Equality or Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Only the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, spoke, while Deputy Neville was here for some of the debate. There was little evidence of the Minister of State's Government colleagues from the key Departments thath he needs on board to bring about these reforms.

  Getting down to brass tacks, what the Minister of State said about the Judicial Council Bill is new and I welcome that it will go to Committee Stage in the Seanad by the end of this month. He challenged all of us to have the Bill enacted by the summer. We will certainly play our part on this side of the House.

  The Minister of State’s speech, which was circulated to Members earlier, does not inspire me with confidence. It states:

Legislative proposals in relation to this matter are at an early stage of development and when that developmental work has been finalised, it is envisaged that any resulting amendments will be the subject of consultation with the Judiciary in keeping with the collaborative approach which has marked the development of the Judicial Council Bill.

Will we get this done by the summer? We have to because we have no choice.

  These guidelines which will eventually emerge cannot be too loose. If they are not tight, then this will not work. One person, who happens to be in the Gallery this afternoon, told me that going before the Judiciary to defend a personal injury claim is like a lucky dip. That is not good enough. If these guidelines are too loose, then this simply will not work. They have to be tight in respect of their scope and application. We will work with the Minister of State to get that done. We will not accept any further delay in dealing with that.

  The Minister of State did not have any good news on insurance fraud and the establishment of a Garda fraud unit. I know the Garda is operationally independent. However, the Minister for Justice and Equality needs to engage with An Garda Síochána to establish its views on this issue. It is not good enough that we cannot get information on whether files relating to alleged insurance fraud go to the Director of Public Prosecutions, whether any prosecutions are taken or whether convictions occur. No reports are provided in this regard. That is not good enough and this information must be made available.

  There are people in the Gallery, as well as others at home and at work, who are facing the closure of their businesses. I am as able to criticise insurance companies as anybody else. It is justified in many instances. However, there is a problem when none of the insurance companies operating in Ireland is willing to provide cover in certain sectors. We have play centres reliant on Axa XL and nightclubs reliant on Lloyds in the UK. These areas are particularly exposed because there is only one insurance company, UK-based, providing cover. As these businesses face closure, will the Minister of State seek to engage directly with these insurance firms? It is a small number of firms but they have significant sway in respect of the continuation of insurance cover at reasonable rates for these sectors. I will work with the Minister of State in doing that but we need to engage with those insurance firms immediately. Otherwise, inherently good, profitable and viable businesses will be shut down as a result of the cost of insurance. None of us wants that. We must use this debate to bring about change. The sense of urgency cannot be lost. The fact some businesses have closed is regrettable. Many more will follow. We need to deal with this issue.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Period Poverty: Motion

Deputy Catherine Martin: Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin I move:

That Dáil Éireann:
notes that:

— the average woman, or anyone who experiences periods, will have 507 periods from age 12 to 51, for roughly 39 years of her life;

— in Ireland, sanitary products can cost from €2 to €6 per pack, with the average pack containing 10 to 15 pads or tampons, and that a 12 pack of pain relief tablets costs between €6 and €10;

— most women and girls will have 13 periods a year, with some using up to 22 tampons and/or towels per cycle leading to an estimated annual cost of €208 for sanitary products and pain relief, costing €8,100 over a lifetime;

— access to affordable sanitary products and menstrual education should be viewed in a human rights context, as according to the World Health Organisation’s constitution ‘…the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being’;

— the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council Resolution 33/10 on 29th September, 2016 states that lack of menstrual health management and stigma associated with menstruation both have a negative impact on gender equality and women’s and girls’ enjoyment of human rights, including the right to education and the right to health;

— the UN Committee on Rights of the Child’s General comment No. 20 (2016) on implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence has stated that ‘All adolescents should have access to free, confidential, adolescent-responsive and non-discriminatory sexual and reproductive health services, information and education… [including on] menstrual hygiene’;

— according to a survey of more than 1,100 young girls and women aged between 12 and 19 years by Plan International Ireland, nearly 50 per cent of Irish teenage girls find it difficult to afford sanitary products;

— some 109 of the young women who participated in the survey said they were forced to use a ‘less suitable sanitary product’ because of the high monthly cost involved;

— nearly 60 per cent, or one in two, of young women and girls said school does not inform them adequately about periods;

— six out of ten young women reported feeling shame and embarrassment about their period, 61 per cent miss school on their period and more than 80 per cent said they did not feel comfortable talking about their periods with their father or a teacher; and

— nearly 70 per cent of young women take some form of pain relief during menstruation;
acknowledges that:
— tampons and sanitary towels are not subject to Value Added Tax (VAT) in Ireland, which has a zero rate treatment on women’s sanitary products, but new period products that may better suit some women, girls and the environment, are still taxed at the highest rate of tax at 23 per cent;

— due to the high cost of these products women and girls in period poverty are resorting to unsuitable options such as newspaper, toilet paper or unwashed clothing;

— girls and young women who suffer shame and embarrassment surrounding their period are more likely to use unsuitable options rather than approach family members or their teacher;

— in September 2018, Dublin City Council announced it will provide free sanitary products in its buildings, such as community centres, swimming pools and libraries;

— the advances being made in other countries, such as the success of a six month pilot in Aberdeen to provide free products in all schools funded by the Scottish Government;
— the work of organisations such as Plan International Ireland and The Homeless Period to alleviate the stress and financial burden placed on women and girls due to period poverty; and
calls on the Government to:
— provide a range of free, adequate, safe and suitable sanitary products and comprehensive, objective menstrual education information distributed through all public buildings, including schools, universities, direct provision centres, refuges, homeless services, Garda stations, hospitals, maternity hospitals, prisons, detention centres and rehabilitation centres so as to tackle period poverty and de-stigmatise and normalise menstruation;

— ensure all menstrual products available in Ireland are safe, through regulation and quality checks;

— ensure young women, girls and people of other genders can learn about their periods and menstrual hygiene in a normalising and safe environment, including online by providing a State-run website with objective information, and ensure girls, boys and people of other genders have access to education about menstruation integrated into the school curriculum;

— ensure improved access to hygienic facilities and sanitary products that are affordable and meet individual needs;

— work with other countries across the European Union to remove VAT on all sanitary products, including healthy and environmentally-friendly sanitary products such as cups and period-proof underwear; and

— prioritise the issue of menstrual equity for girls and children’s rights as central to Irish Aid’s work overseas in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, and Goal 6 which calls for universal and equitable access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030.

I am sharing time with the Deputy Chairperson of the Oireachtas Women's Parliamentary Caucus, Deputy Corcoran Kennedy.

  Is onóir í dom an rún seo a mholadh ar son chácas na mban san Oireachtas. Lá stairiúil is ea an lá seo do Dháil Éireann, agus mná ar fud an speictream polaitiúil ag teacht le chéile ar an rún ar bhochtanas míostraithe. Táim bródúil go bhfuil cácas na mban ag obair chun an cheist seo a shoiléiriú tríd an rún seo a mholadh. Agus muid ag obair le chéile agus ag cur polaitíocht na bpáirtithe ar leataobh, táimid ábalta éifeacht dhearfach a bhaint amach do mhná agus cailíní na tíre seo. Níl sa rún seo ach tús le cácas na mban san Oireachtas. Tá sé ar intinn againn níos mó reachtaíochta a chur chun cinn amach anseo chun dul i ngleic le réimse leathan ábhar a bhaineann le mná. Is iomaí agus is coimpléascaí na bacanna ar chomhionnanas a bhaint amach. Le chéile, mar mhná, is fórsa éifeachtach muid chun athruithe dearfacha a bhaint amach.

  According to research conducted by Plan International Ireland, 50% of women between the ages of 12 and 19 struggle to afford sanitary products. Can one imagine that roughly half of young women in Ireland cannot afford a basic product? This seems like an issue about which we should all be talking if not shouting. It might surprise some Members that up until this moment the word "menstruation" has appeared only 27 times on the Oireachtas records. That record will certainly be broken this evening. Something that affects roughly 50% of the teenage and adult population has been mentioned fewer than 30 times in our national Parliament since the foundation of our State. When one delves into those records, one will quickly find that periods are almost entirely spoken about in a context of fertility rather than in terms of an individual's health and well-being. This is worrying because period poverty is a real issue for women in Ireland. It is having a negative impact on their education, well-being and quality of life. Accordingly, it must be spoken about and addressed in those terms.

  It is estimated that Irish women and girls spend an average of €132 every year on tampons and sanitary towels. For women, girls and those experiencing periods who are homeless, in direct provision or in full-time education, this is a substantial cost. Many often have to resort to cheap, unsafe products or crude alternatives. The monthly burden of purchasing sanitary products falls on approximately half the population by virtue of their biology. This is both an issue of equality and of dignity.

  This motion will be a significant move in addressing the issue of period poverty and bringing further attention to this issue, building on a growing movement across Ireland and the world. Last year, on foot of a motion tabled by Councillor Rebecca Moynihan, Dublin City Council announced that it would provide free sanitary products in its buildings. The Homeless Period Ireland organisation, directed brilliantly by Claire Hunt, now has 30 drop-off points for people to donate sanitary products to homeless women.

  Students across Ireland have been working to address period poverty in their schools. Just yesterday, students from St. Bricin's in Cavan and Eureka secondary school in Meath came to a briefing relating to this motion in Leinster House. They spoke about the work they are doing through their Young Social Innovators projects and the real impact it is having for students in their schools.

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