Do I have my own opinions regarding the recent high profile ‘rape trial’ in Belfast, the alleged self-professed ‘top shaggers’ and their grotty locker room banter, and indeed, the overall outcome? Of course I do…but I’ll be keeping it to myself!
However, I did read, listen and follow all news reports generated around the proceedings, and it wasn’t until after the verdict had been reached – (with, I stress, all four accused being found not guilty) – did I comment on social media, to say three things. One, we must accept the court’s verdict, and we do of course accept it; it was a difficult trial for all involved. Two, I wished to acknowledge the sheer courage and determination of the complainant and her family during the trial. And three, I wanted to encourage anyone who has been affected by sexual abuse/rape/assault or who has been hurt in any way to make a report to the Gardaí today.
You see, readers, given the massive publicity this trial generated, given the sordid, demoralising, dispiriting and highly offensive moments it provided; given the graphic front page headlines it spawned, given the fact that Crown Courtroom No. 12 appeared to have perversely become a tourist destination with voyeuristic day-trippers and supporters of the accused men, as a rape survivor I was troubled.
I became fearful that, in the wake of everything that’s happened, there’s a significant possibility that victims, in particular women, will be too fearful to come forward, and this alarms me greatly.
Let me make it clear to anyone who this week is reading this and feeling vulnerable and afraid, and who needs clarification around the reporting of a rape in the Republic of Ireland, that we handle things differently here. So please, please seek the Gardaí’s help or at least contact a support group. Here in Roscommon, (and indeed the Republic generally), our system provides for a better level of privacy, with neither the complainant’s nor the accused’s identity being revealed. Remember this fact.
However, I’ll make it clear that rates of conviction are pretty low, and, for various reasons surrounding my personal complaint, disappointingly my own attacker never saw the inside of a Dublin courtroom. This, readers, is because there lies a deep chasm between due process and what is the highly complex legal requirement for the prosecution to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that a complainant was raped. It’s a profound process, but it does not mean the complainant is not believed. In fact, the Gardaí dealing with me were amazing; they were hugely supportive and they were behind me one hundred per cent all the way. To this day I’m so glad I reported him, I’m so glad I sent the Gardaí to his door and I’m so glad he was investigated. I hope to God my report deterred him from attacking or raping another woman. And, even as I still bear the physical and mental scars of that vicious attack, I’m a resilient aul wagon with, I have found, impressive bounce-back ability and survival skills.
For a list of support services in Roscommon/surrounding counties, log onto www.hse.ie. Remember, you are not alone.
Nobody had the guts to say ‘No, Taoiseach!’
Despite the fact that a review concerning the media campaign regarding Project Ireland 2040 has found there was no basis to allegations that the Government’s Strategic Communications Unit (SCU) had breached the Civil Service Code, blurring the lines between the use of taxpayers’ money around promoting and seeking favourable coverage for Fine Gael politicians in advertorials, and objective journalistic coverage, etc., it’s understood the ‘cost neutral’ (insert snigger here) controversial outfit will shut up shop by July.
Now as someone who has, in the past, worked hard around creating, developing and (successfully I might add), delivering certain high profile public relations and communications strategies at Ministerial level both here at home and in the EU, it’s my opinion that the whole humiliating, inglorious disgrace stank to high heaven. And why? Well, for the key reason (in my capacity as a former communications consultant), the unit itself did the one thing it should never, ever do…it became the story!
As a taxpayer however, I viewed the operation as possibly a ruthless and crafty splurge of public money in order that style consultants could ensure politicians looked ‘photo fabulous’ in designer gear while shamelessly, audaciously and brazenly plastering on the poor mouth as they told us poor eejits that the country is pot-less. Effectively holding nothing in the reserves to house the homeless, sort the trolley crisis and re-open Roscommon hospital’s A&E Department.
The review, which was carried out by the highly competent Mr. Martin Fraser, found that ‘some of the public comments made about the SCU have been disproportionate, hurtful and offensive.’ Fair enough. Mind you, what I found offensive is the fact that not one advisor, spin-doctor or so-called guru had the guts to stand up to publicity-lovin’ Leo and say, “Er no Taoiseach, no…reel in the smug supercilious head on ya there son. Irish history is littered with arrogant, idiotic Taoisigh…do you really want to be remembered as another one?” I know I’d have said it!