By Steph Lacey
On 19 August 2020 a two-day event was organised by The Oireachtas Golf Society in the Station House Hotel in Clifden, Co. Galway, which included past and present members of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, Independent TDs, the European Commissioner Paul Hogan, Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary and Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe. The event, which was attended by 82 people, involved two days of golfing and a formal dinner reception. This was held the day after new guidelines were introduced to stop the spread of Covid-19, and was clearly in breach of those guidelines.
Charges were brought against Independent TD Noel Grealish, former Fianna Fáil senator Donie Cassidy and the owners of the hotel for organising the event. The organisers argued that although there were way more than 50 people in attendance, it was okay because they were “split by a partition that clearly defined two areas.” Judge Mary Fahy took less than five minutes to dismiss all charges, stating: “They are all responsible people who would not have gone to a dinner if they did not feel comfortable”, adding “I have no doubt that the organisers, in conjunction with the proprietors, did everything they could to comply and in my view they did comply.”
An essential protest
In March 2021, after the horrific murder of Sarah Everard in London by a Met police officer, ROSA — Socialist Feminist Movement held stand-out protests throughout Ireland in solidarity, and to highlight the rise in gender-based violence and demand action to stop it. One of these protests was held in Limerick City, it was attended by ten ROSA activists. All attendees wore masks, signs were also put on poles to remind people to social distance, circles were drawn with chalk on the ground to direct people in this, and bottles of hand sanitiser were available.
Everything done at this protest, which lasted about 15 minutes, was done to ensure it was as safe as possible, and there are photos as well as video evidence to prove this. Two months after this protest, however, a ROSA activist who was in attendance received a fine €500 for “organising an event.” This wasn’t an “event”, people weren’t playing golf and drinking champagne, it was a protest to highlight the scourge of gender-based violence, what the UN has called ‘the shadow pandemic’.
Using Judge Mary Fahy’s own words on why she dismissed GolfGate, were the activists who attended this protest not “responsible people” who would not have attended the protest “if they did not feel comfortable”? Did they not do “everything to comply” to the rules?
Pandemic of gender violence
In the south of Ireland we have seen over 244 women murdered by men since they started recording femicide in 1996. We have seen intimate partner violence rise drastically since the lockdowns were implemented, refuges stating that they’re forced to turn women away every day because they have no space. While this is all going on it has been revealed that thousands of 999 domestic violence emergency calls were ignored by Gardaí and the Government still allocates more money in the budget every year to support the cruel greyhound racing industry than women’s refuges.
We can’t sit back and wait for the Government to do something about gender violence when it has shown repeatedly that it has no interest in fighting to stop it. Micheál Martin said recently that men need to start listening to women, yet when activists try to highlight gender violence they get threatened and fined in an attempt to shut them up. When the fine was raised in the Dáil this week by Socialist Party TD Mick Barry, Leo Varadkar refused to comment on it and then sniggered when the Ceann Comhairle called him a ‘wise man’ for refusing to comment.
Backward state exposed
Leo Varadkar himself broke Covid guidelines to attend a party for Katherine Zappone in a luxury five-star hotel, and then laughed at a woman being fined for protesting against gender violence — this at a time when people are still mourning the tragic murder of Ashling Murphy, and we’re hearing nearly daily of more attacks against women. Cynical politicians like Varadkar will attend the vigils and say all the right banalities on camera, but when it comes to actions they are doing absolutely nothing.
The hypocrisy of the establishment is summed up by the fact that they’re allowed to throw parties for themselves, breaking their own rules, but a 15-minute stand out — protesting against the deadly culture of gender violence — is punished. In taking this action, the capitalist state is exposing itself again as utterly sexist and backward, and part of the problem.