People in society are saying “enough is enough, this cannot happen again” in the wake of the murder of Offaly teacher Ashling Murphy, the Taoiseach has said.
Micheál Martin said the outpouring of grief across the country for the 23-year-old, who was killed by the Grand Canal outside Tullamore on Wednesday, represents a “powerful act of solidarity”.
He said that he “has to acknowledge” that people don’t feel safe, but said the Government is set to bring forward a “major strategy” in terms of violence against women, under the aegis of Justice Minister Helen McEntee.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Late Late Show, Mr Martin added that “there has to be a cultural sea change”.
“We have to call out any undermining of women, any violence, but also the culture of misogyny, and the absence of parity of esteem”.
“The vast majority of men are repulsed by this. We need to listen to women more, sometimes we do not do that, but listening is the first step. Men do want to help,” he said.
In terms of the ongoing pandemic, Mr Martin said he is “feeling optimistic” at present given the situation with Omicron is “stabilising here, and the progress is clear to be seen”.
“Case numbers are coming down, we are certainly heading past the peak at this stage,” he said, adding that “by the end of next week I think we’ll be in a position to make decisions over restrictions”.
He said that “we have to learn to live with” Covid, but said he means that in terms of “being able to switch on a vaccination programme as needed”.
As to whether or not the 8pm closing rule for hospitality will be gone by early February, the Taoiseach said “I hope so”.
“We want to ease restrictions when it’s safe to do so. But we’re still at 17,000 cases a day. I want to say to people your efforts are having an effect. It is the unvaccinated who are getting very sick,” he said.
Regarding Nphet’s prospective discussion of possible mandatory vaccinations, Mr Martin reiterated that he is “an advocate of the voluntary system” of vaccinations.
“The fact we got to 94% first and second doses, most world leaders would look at that and ask how the hell did you get that,” he said.
He said he doesn’t expect schools to close again.
“When we had 20,000 cases a day we opened the schools,” he said.
“The fact we can tolerate such a level of disease in society, the vaccines are working, and they’ll get better in the future.”
He said he is “comfortable” about rotating the Taoiseach’s office back to Leo Varadkar at the end of this year, and insisted he will “certainly” still be the leader of Fianna Fáil when that happens.