the irish tatler women of the year

When Eve McDowell moved to college in Galway, it was the beginning of a new adventure. But things began to take a different turn when a former classmate started turning up at her work unexpectedly, and repeatedly, and then appearing wherever she went. He began to hide in the bushes outside her home, shaving his head and beard in an attempt at disguise. Eventually, he tried to break into her home. And despite appealing for help from the police, they instead said they could do nothing for her until it became more “serious”. Which it did. He set up scaffolding on a neighbour’s balcony to gain easy access to her home, breaking in and attempting to attack her with a hammer. She evaded the assault. But the ordeal was not over. Despite the escalation and threat of physical harm, she discovered that his crime of stalking was not a legislated offence.
Meanwhile, in Youghal in Cork, Una Ring was being systematically threatened by a former work colleague. Repeated harassment by text message led to increasingly threatening behaviour, including his threat to rape her and her 20-year-old daughter. Eventually, Gardai apprehended her stalker entering her driveway with rope, a crowbar and ducktape, commonly known as a ‘rape kit’. Her stalker was convicted, but Una bore the psychological scars. Yet she waived her anonymity, hoping to encourage other women to come forward knowing that almost half of incidents such as hers go unreported.
And it was her courage in publicising her experience that led to something greater yet and when Eve McDowell heard of Una’s story, she made contact, both sharing a desire to offer more support to victims of stalking. What began as an online support service, grew into an action group, and with the help of others including senator Lisa Chambers, Mary Crilly from the Sexual Violence Centre and the Law Reform Commission, they mounted a campaign to bring in new legislation to make stalking a standalone offence. In March 2023, the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill was passed. On 1 November the crime of stalking, which will carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, became law. It is a lasting legacy of two women brought together for all the wrong reasons yet turning it into good. “We have,” they say, “taken our power back.”

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