Opinion: Make no mistake,  Minister John Halligan is on the side of women

Conflating a man’s character with one episode of poor judgment makes idiots of us all, says Áine Carroll.

Minister John Halligan committed a terrible error of judgment in a high stakes interview when he asked a woman some completely inappropriate questions about her family situation.

If something like this ever happened to me and I was denied the job I too would probably consider taking a case.

Fair play to the woman who did: What Mr Halligan did is against the law and goes against today’s strict non-personal interview standards, but asking an inappropriate question does not make someone a dinosaur.

In fact, watching the story unfold on the news brought back fond memories of my time working with Deputy Halligan: how he always took the time to ask how I was; how was my partner and my mam; and had I found that new flat yet.

For two years I listened as he championed women on his feet in the Dáil.

I recall him as a nice man to work for, who had good principles and was genuinely interested in other people’s welfare and how he could make accommodations.

He went out of his way on occasion to support me when it would have made his life easier not to.

The interview was the wrong place to let his guard down, to let that piece of personality slip, and the timing is also very unfortunate.

The fallout is not surprising — given that he holds ministerial office — but conflating a man’s character with one episode of poor judgment makes idiots of us all.

His record in parliamentary debates in relation to women’s rights, including the right to choose, is openly available on the Oireachtas website.

Any craw-thumping sceptic with old-fashioned ‘notions’ about working women you will not find.

The only antidote to fake news is the same old-fashioned tincture for herd-think: critical thought backed up by critical research, allowed to ferment in openness of honest discourse.

The tidal wave of stories about sexual harassment and misogynistic bias towards women post-Weinstein is one of the most important developments to happen in feminism in a long time.

Through telling our stories, we are making emotional connections with the men who are our allies — the men who are in the majority, the men who love us and who we love back, the men who love our children, the men who champion us in the home, in the workplace and in the parliament.

Telling our stories in the open has rallied the troops but not everyone is an enemy. Change doesn’t happen in isolation: women have got this, but who doesn’t need an ally?

We cannot waste the opportunity of the #metoo movement by shutting down the voices of allies and make no mistake about it — John Halligan is on the side of women.

In order that we don’t paint all men into a corner with the same brush, it is important to keep critical spaces open in our minds so that we can decipher nuance through the fog and chatter.

This is important, so that the entire constellation of a man’s character is scrutinised before he is prematurely impaled to the mast.

Áine Carroll was employed in the Houses of the Oireachtas as an administrator in a political office up to 2015. She has a master’s degree in equality studies (UCD) and a bachelor of arts in history and politics (University of Limerick).


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