It’ll be no surprise to anyone who’s a regular reader of this blog that feminism is something I care about. I’ve written time and time again here about the violence against women I cover on a day to day basis down at the courts and on occasion delved into the subject on a broader basis.
I was delighted to see the Dublin Writers’ Festival hosting an event with Susan McKay ( former journalist, writer and currently director of the National Womens’ Council) and Natasha Walters (broadcaster,writer & critic and author of The New Feminism as well as the recent Living Dolls) were in conversation with Irish Times journalist Anthea McTiernan. The main thrust of the talk was the return of sexism highlighted by Natasha’s book Living Dolls but the conversation soon moved into other areas.
It’s great to see an event like that packed out. There’s still a very pressing need for feminism, some battles may have been won and I’m grateful for how much easier my life and my career have been compared to my mother’s generation but there’s still a lot more to be done. When I first started working in the Four Courts I was shocked by how many trials concerned violence against women. These days when the Monday list contains four rapes and two murders trials with men accused of killing their partners I don’t even blink.
I don’t cover as many rapes these days but the one’s I did cover I will never forget. Stories of violence, manipulation and betrayal that strip away any veneer of civilisation and show how bestial our society can sometimes be. Even now, covering murder trials, it’s no better. There’s been a succession of men in the dock over the past three years charged with killing their partners. So many strong, independent, loving women, women like Siobhan Kearney, Rachel O’Reilly, Karen Guiney, Colleen Mulder, Meg Walsh or Jean Gilbert, all brutally killed. In all except the case of Meg Walsh it was the partner who was guilty of their death.
My latest book, Death on the Hill, due out later this month is about about another of these cases. Eamonn Lillis was convicted in February of killing his wife Celine Cawley. During the trial Celine, as a successful businesswoman, was branded a domineering harpy. The newspapers happily snapped up the story put forward by the court. But it was online, on the gossipy forums and various blogs that the real vitriol came out. I came across one football forum while I was researching the book where the thread on the trial consisted of men posting pictures of Celine as a young model and joking about how much she had let herself go according to later pictures. They were vile comments in a very public forum. There were times when it seemed Celine was the one on trial. That case really brought gender politics out into the light and we have a very long way to go!