Councillor says she was the victim of a sexually motivated attack

Deirdre Donnelly says reporting experience was so bad, women should just ‘move on’

Independent Dun Laoghaire Rathdown county councillor Deirdre Donnelly has followed Minister Josepha Madigan in revealing she too was the victim of sexually motivated attack.

Ms Donnelly said she was harassed by a man who pestered here during a function at a hotel. “He was rubbing himself up against me. It was in a bar in full view of people, but nobody seemed to notice”, she said.

Ms Donnelly said she repeatedly moved away from the man whom she said was drinking alcohol and was swaying as he walked.

Eventually she felt compelled to leave the function early and go to her room, but the man followed her, causing here to flee and fall. She said she had a previous knee injury which had recovered , but when she fell she caused it “permanent damage” that night.

However in a departure from Ms Madigan’s advice to victims to stand up and report such incidents to the Garda, Ms Donnelly said she would advise people “don’t report it, don’t complain just move on”. Ms Donnelly said the reason that she would give this advice is the lack of support she received when she sought help.

Outlining her experience Ms Donnelly said “I suppose the point I want to make here is that we have a justice system in this country that is genuinely not fit for purpose and I just don’t think people realise how bad it is.”

She told Katie Hannon on the RTÉ Radio programme Liveline that she wanted to be clear that those involved in "horrific cases" of domestic violence, domestic violence where children are involved and cases involving "a predator , serial rapist" should report incidents and seek help.

But she said; “I am talking specifically in my case about a one-off incident where you are unlikely to meet the individual again. I would just plead with women don’t report it, don’t complain and just move on.

“I stupidly made a mistake of putting faith in our justice system a while back and at the end of the day, and I have heard this from other people as well, the justice system can be in a lot of cases a lot worse than anything the individual does in the first place”.

She said the next day people who attended the function had asked if she was okay. Many people had criticised the behaviour of the man in question she said. She asked for the CCTV when she left the hotel and made a complaint “not the next day the day after that”. But she said she was phoned by the Hotel’s HR people saying they would like her to go to the Garda before they gave her a copy of the CCTV.

She said when she went to the Garda there was “no one person to explain the whole thing... she said there was “no one you can talk to and no one you can go to whatsoever”.

She said she wanted to be clear: “He didn’t touch me. But what he was saying was enough for me to think I just want to get to my room quickly”.

She said her concern was “the follow up when you do go to the gardaí and make a complaint and that’s where I felt the support isn’t there and the legal system is unbelievable poor in relation to any support for victims to the extent that I would say to people to think twice before you report something like this. The system is unbelievably bad”.

She said she was on crutches for some time and had to learn that the harassment she received, which had included the man rubbing herself up against her, was illegal. She said she also learned from the Data Protection Commissioner that she had a legal right to the CCTV footage. She compared this with the legal advice that would be available to any perpetrator form the moment they were accused.

Although she made a statement to the Garda she did not get a copy of it and while the individual investigating officer “was great” communication with the force was difficult, a medical report went missing and she felt there was “no one on her side”. She said 22 months afterwards the complaint she was told the Garda was not going to take a complaint to court.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist