Shauna Young investigates the rise of femicide in Ireland and how it is institutionally overlooked. Content Warning: this article features talk of gender-based violence (femicide) which some might find distressing; reader discretion is advised.
The recurrence of femicides in Ireland has refocused the debate on women’s safety in this country and raised the issue of the consequences that those committing these crimes will face. So far in 2023, seven women have been victims of violent femicides, with the most recent murder in Tullamore in which a sixteen year old boy murdered his stepmother. This particular femicide caught the attention of the nation due to the boy recording and posting the video of the murder on his social media, which resulted in widespread circulation.
So far in 2023, seven women have been victims of violent femicides.
According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, 30% of femicides in 2017 in Ireland were perpetrated by the victims’ intimate partners, and 70% of femicide perpetrators were strangers to the victims. A student who wishes to remain anonymous stated, “It’s always a risk and a massive fear that one day we just won’t come home again because you always see all these stories on social media about women - and it’s not that they’re ‘unlucky’ enough to be murdered by someone they know or by a stranger, I don’t know why the narrative always blames women for the actions of the men carrying out these crimes.”
‘It’s always a risk and a massive fear that one day we just won’t come home again.’
The murder of 23 year old Ashling Murphy in January 2022 has quite possibly become one of the most infamously violent cases of Ireland’s recent history, sparking an increase of fear in women from all walks of life, but particularly in students. Another student echoed their peer’s feelings of unsafety : ‘It creates a raging level of feeling unsafe everywhere, not just in the streets at night. Ashling Murphy was a murder that should not have happened. It was broad daylight, she was out for a jog. If we can’t even go for a jog in the afternoon, how are we ever going to feel safe just existing knowing that we could be attacked no matter the circumstances or time of day?’. The cases of femicide in this country target all women indiscriminately. Although UCD markets itself as a ‘safe space’ for all, there is always an underlying fear for women that one wrong move or one wrong sentence to the wrong person will result in them becoming a part of these femicide statistics. 2022 was declared the “deadliest year of the decade for women and children” by Safe Ireland, with 13 women in Ireland having been victims of brutal murders.
‘If we can’t even go for a jog in the afternoon, how are we ever going to feel safe just existing knowing that we could be attacked no matter the circumstances or time of day?’
As previously mentioned, the death of Lorna Woodnutt in Tullamore is the latest of the seven femicides to have happened in Ireland this year, bringing the total number of femicides in Ireland to 263 since 1996. We have now passed the halfway mark for 2023. However, the year is far from over, leaving an air of tension and fear for women all over the country as to whether the figures will increase. Another unsettling aspect to consider is whether or not the government will step up and eventually introduce new laws that treat femicide as a discriminatory crime as well as manslaughter.
The feminine-presenting UCD students are told by the college that campus is a safe place where all are welcome and important. However, if UCD is the only environment in which a young woman feels safe, then the normalization of young women’s unsafety in public space is called into question. Female students already face mistreatment at the hands of male peers simply for their gender, and the perceived danger of the country adds insult to injury. This country’s government often talks about the worrying rates of femicide yet takes minimal action to counter it, leaving everyone to wonder whether anything will change in the upcoming future, and whether Ireland will remain unprepared and unable to offer a safer environment for all.