Plans to consult women living in north county Dublin on how best to make public spaces safe could pave the way for future development elsewhere, a meeting of Fingal County Council has heard.
The initiative is aimed at getting female perspectives on how future design would improve security. It is being spearheaded by Fingal Mayor Cllr Seána Ó Rodaigh.
The move follows several recent attacks on women in public spaces.
“I was thinking this would be a study of women and children’s safety to identify the factors that make women and children feel safe and unsafe. So it’s really consultation, it’s asking women,” said the mayor at Monday’s meeting.
“The children element would be different [in] how we would engage with them. But . . . I don’t think it’s ever been asked before.”
The Labour Party councillor expressed confidence that Fingal’s lead could be followed by other councils. While the issue of children’s safety was later added to the motion, the debate was focused on women’s safety. The mayor noted that engineering and design in public planning has, traditionally, been male dominated and gauging the female perspective would enable a “different lens” for future works.
The proposed study attracted unanimous support and looks set to take the form of open consultation. It will be forwarded to the local authority’s joint policing committee for development.
Sinn Féin Cllr Natalie Treacy, backing the consultation approach, suggested it include various women's groups such as walking clubs. "We need to listen to the women and their views," she said.
Independent Cllr Joe Newman, who supported the motion, was eager to prevent any suggestion that male planners do not have concern for people’s safety in mind.
“With regards to men designing public realm and places like that, I’m sure there’s plenty of women behind those men that contribute to how we develop and design them,” he said. “Men, I think, are caring too and do consider people’s safety.”
However, that prompted comments on the difference in experience.
Green Party Cllr Karen Power asked those at the meeting to simultaneously call out the word they would use if they were being attacked. Saying the word "fire", she opined that men generally assume it is "help", not having to consider the issue to the extent that women do.
“I hear what Cllr Newman is saying in relation to the men who are designing these spaces,” she said. “I understand where he is coming from, it’s just it’s a different lived experience for women.”