Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan is to chair a taskforce established to address the safety of politicians in Ireland.
The taskforce was set up earlier this year after reporting in The Irish Times revealed the scale of the abuse female politicians face in the course of their work, both in person and online. Some said they faced death threats and sexual harassment regularly, others reported being followed and some said they had people turning up at their homes.
Female public representatives spoke of having to put extra locks on their homes and offices, and some said they no longer hold constituency clinics on the advice of gardaí.
The 17-person taskforce is to report back by December 31st with recommendations on how to address the problem of abuse and harassment in political life. It met informally on Thursday evening, and will hold a first official meeting on June 12th.
After the final report is sent to Government, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl will move to set up an implementation group to ensure the recommendations are followed. “It won’t be a case of a report and no action, there will absolutely be follow up action,” he said on Friday.
The membership includes the Women for Election chief executive Caitríona Gleeson, Independent TD Cathal Berry, Fianna Fáil Senator Fiona O’Loughlin, Senator Frances Black, Labour leader Ivana Bacik, Fianna Gael Minister of State Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Fianna Fáil TD Jennifer Murnane O’Connor, Fianna Fáil Senator Lisa Chambers and Sinn Féin TD Sorca Clarke among others.
According to the terms of reference, the taskforce will consider the nature, prevalence and impact of abuse, including online abuse, on men and women who participate in political life within the Irish context. They will examine what public policies, including legislation, is needed to safeguard and support those who work in politics.
They will also look at the response of social media platforms in addressing online abuse and harassment. The Houses of the Oireachtas Service will provide administrative, legal and research services to the taskforce.
The Cabinet earlier this month approved allowances for improved security, which will allow politicians claim 50 per cent of the cost of intruder alarms, CCTV, fixed panic buttons, and personal monitoring devices. Oireachtas members will be able to apply for a vouched reimbursement of 50 per cent of their approved security costs, up to a maximum of €5,000, whichever is the less.