Second Opinion: Moyes attracted more headlines than a treaty protecting women

Former Manchester United manager, David Moyes. Photograph: EPA

Former Manchester United manager, David Moyes. Photograph: EPA

Wed, May 14, 2014, 09:00

It’s official. Football is more important than violence against women. David Moyes lost his job as manager of Manchester United football team on the same day the Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention) received the 10 ratifications necessary for the treaty to enter into force.

Strasbourg issued a press release: “Europe takes major step forward to protect women’s rights. Today Andorra became the 10th member state to ratify [the convention], which means the treaty will enter into force on the 1st of August, 2014.”

Human Rights Watch called the convention’s entry into force “a defining moment”.

Not in Ireland, it seems. The media went over the top about the David Moyes story. RTÉ Radio 1 included aspects of his sacking on Drivetime at least eight times. Several sports commentators were interviewed during the show.

The news that women might finally get more protection against violence, and more perpetrators might be brought to justice, was not mentioned once. Not that day nor the next, nor since.

Constitutional ‘difficulty’
The convention opened for signature in May 2011 and, to date, 34 states have signed and 11 states have ratified it. Ireland has neither signed nor ratified the convention. The Department of Justice and Equality claims “article 52, which deals with emergency barring orders, presents a particular difficulty in relation to property rights under the Irish Constitution”.

The explanatory report on the convention says perpetrators must be removed from the victim’s vicinity for as long as it takes to ensure the victim’s safety.

“Rather than placing the burden of hurriedly seeking safety in a shelter or elsewhere on the victim, who is often accompanied by dependent children, the drafters [of the convention] considered it important to ensure the removal of the perpetrator to allow the victim to remain in the home.”

A 2014 report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Violence against Women: An EU-wide Survey, shows that 26 per cent of all Irish women have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence, perpetrated by their partner, and 31 per cent have experienced psychological violence in their relationships.

The Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality held two public hearings about violence against women and domestic violence in February.

Several groups represented at the hearings, including the National Women’s Council and Amnesty International Ireland, called on the Government to sign the convention, “which establishes a gold-standard comprehensive framework”, as a matter of urgency.

Committee member Senator Tony Mulcahy said his father was “a thug and a bully” and domestic violence situations should be treated as crime scenes.

I couldn’t agree more.

The convention makes clear that violence against women and domestic violence is caused by misogyny: “a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between women and men”.

Despite this, those on the receiving end often blame themselves instead of the perpetrator. The May 2014 bulletin of the World Health Organisation reports on a review of 23 studies which found that victim-blaming attitudes persist among European citizens.

‘Provocative behaviour’
Intimate-partner violence is caused by “women’s provocative behaviour”, according to 71 per cent of Danes, 59 per cent of Swedes and 46 per cent of Irish citizens.

Equality is a key element in the prevention of violence. States ratifying the convention are obliged to “take the necessary measures to encourage all members of society, especially men and boys, to contribute actively to preventing all forms of violence [against women]”.

All forms of violence against women, and domestic violence, must be “punishable by effective, proportionate, and dissuasive sentences”.

Recent court cases show this is not happening here. Martin Quigley (48) of Kilmuckridge, Gorey, Co Wexford, received a two-year suspended sentence for sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman in a B&B. John Daly (53) of Cabra Park, Phibsboro, assaulted teenage girls on the Luas and got two years of his four-year sentence suspended.

The convention is the first legally binding set of standards on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence in Europe. It is time for the Government to sign and ratify the con- vention and get on with eliminating this abuse of human rights for once and for all.

Apart from children’s safety, nothing is more important; not property rights, football, nor the careers of football managers.

If Irish people, particularly men and the media, devoted half the time and energy they spend on sports matters to solving the problem of violence against women and children, there would not be a problem.

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (, tel: 1800-778888) and Women’s Aid
(, tel:1800-341 900) are running “Not happily ever after”, a national public-awareness campaign, to highlight the crime of sexual violence within relationships.

Jacky Jones is a former HSE regional manager of health promotion.

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