Steps that can help in prioritising your safety this Christmas season

It’s that time of year again, a time when it’s perfectly acceptable to let everyone know you’re in festive party-ready form by wearing that hilarious, (and often questionable), Santa jumper into the office!

Good for you! After all, given the restrictions imposed on us over the past two years, (which, let’s face it, ruined Christmas), it’s great to see how this year, everyone is well and truly dedicated to ‘simply having a wonderful Christmas time’.

Forget about the Grinch readers, it was actually Covid who stole Christmas!

Nevertheless, even though the World Health Organisation, (WHO), has declared that the end of the pandemic ‘is in sight’, we must still be mindful and take care of ourselves and those who’re vulnerable.

That doesn’t mean we can’t make this Christmas count by availing of the opportunity to relax, catch up with friends and family, and use the spirit of the season (i.e. the dopamine high that comes with the smell of mulled wine and streets bustling with shoppers), to treat ourselves!

I don’t want to be a killjoy, but I have to add that even as Christmas is the time for party nights, for many women, the season of goodwill is dampened considerably by the stresses and strains of trying to stay safe and get home without incident.

Yes ladies, I’m willing to bet that while many of us are selecting our glitzy bits, and matching up our shoes with our sequins in anticipation of a fun night out, the thing that’s lingering most on our minds is how to plot a safe route home to our own front doors.

These safety dilemmas are nothing new. I always worried about how I’d get to and from the extravagant Christmas parties and social events I used to attend when I worked in Dublin at RTE and the Evening Herald. Those concerns were removed once I married my extremely protective second husband, who, no matter what the location or the hour, makes sure I’m safe by dropping me off and picking me up. He’s a keeper.

These issues and anxieties we women have regarding our safety are heightened even more by the horrific murder of 23-year-old teacher Ashling Murphy while she was out jogging in broad daylight at the beginning of this year.

There has also been a rise in instances of drink spiking, with statistics showing how ‘40 people have reported being spiked so far this year’, and Garda figures revealing that ‘24 people reported being spiked with a needle in the first nine months of 2022’.

While so-called ‘needle spiking’ is a new occurrence in Ireland, it’s extremely dangerous and could cause major health issues, both physically and psychologically, for victims.

Drink spiking (or needle spiking) can happen in any venue, in any location, even at a house party. Therefore, in order to make sure your party experience is merry, bright and safe, I’ve put together just a few of the prevention strategies and telltale signs I’ve made my own daughters aware of:

Before going anywhere, even if it’s a friend’s house, tell someone where you’re heading, and what time to expect you home at.

Always buy your own drinks, as in, never accept a drink from a stranger.

If you’re at a house party, avoid drinking from punch bowls or jugs of cocktail mixes.

Never, ever leave your drink unattended to get up on the dance floor, or to go into the loo. Finish it off, or leave it and buy a fresh one.

It’s highly unlikely your drink will look, smell or taste any different if it has been spiked. However, if a drug called gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is present, you may be able to identify it by its salty taste. GHB is available in a clear liquid form, and is notorious for being a ‘date rape’ drug.

If you suddenly feel very drunk, incapacitated, experience blurred vision, or become confused or begin to vomit, stop drinking immediately, tell a trusted friend and call an ambulance and the Gardaí.

If you’re heading abroad this Christmas, please make yourself aware of your local area, make a list of where you can find help, and keep it with you at all times.


A politician’s private life is none of our business

As most readers will be aware, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, who’s set to become our Taoiseach this Saturday, was videoed last week in a nightclub socialising with a person many claim is not his partner.

So what? Whose business is it other than Leo’s, his partner’s and the person with whom he (Varadkar) was videoed?

I’m not a fan of Leo’s (or of Micheál Martin’s for that matter), but as this is a personal issue, one which allegedly occurred while the Tánaiste was off-duty and on his own private time, and one which doesn’t in any way affect matters of State, we should move on!

While it’s not illegal to take a picture or to video someone in a public place, it’s pretty nasty; especially if it’s done with malice, or with the intention of trying to ruin someone’s career or personal relationship.

None of us are party to the intricacies of Leo and his partner’s relationship. It’s nobody’s business but theirs. To that end, for me, the real villain in this scenario is the sneaky, creepy sod who took the footage and posted it on social media. Unless a TD, Minister, Tánaiste or Taoiseach, etc., is doing something illegal, their ‘private time’ has got nothing whatsoever to do with us.

Personally, I’m more interested in Leo’s famous 2019 ‘leaking of a confidential draft GP contract’ to one of his medical friends. However, as the ethics watchdog has decided not to carry out an investigation, I suppose that’s the end of the matter…or is it?

I’m glad Gardaí have resources to deal with trauma

I would imagine the job of being a Garda must be an intensely stressful one. It’s for that reason I’m not surprised to read reports that Gardaí have spent ‘almost €2.3 million to provide psychological support to officers and staff dealing with trauma or distressing evidence’.

As a former animal welfare officer involved in the seizure, rescue, investigation and evidence-gathering which lead to prosecutions, I’ve worked with many fantastic Gardaí in my time, and I’m glad they’re at least being given the resources to help them deal and heal with their trauma.

I worked for a charitable organisation, therefore the scenes, the video footage, the abuse and the horrors myself and my colleagues came across involving animals, young children and entire families, perpetrated by individuals, as well as by gangs involved in organised crime, were not just traumatic; in many instances, they emotionally broke us.

However, as all of our financial resources went into rehabilitating those poor abused animals, we had zero left in the reserves for helping us, the rescuers.

In those days, the best we could hope for when we finished our shifts, removed our stab vests and filed our paperwork was that someone would be in the staff canteen ready to make us a cup of tea and hold our hands while we cried our hearts out. Believe me, I could have won an Olympic gold for Ireland for the amount of tears I shed over those poor abused animals and the families who suffered at the hands of the perpetrators who caused their suffering.

I’m glad our Gardaí have the help and support they so richly deserve. Thank you for your service.