Is Ireland Ever Going To Get Serious About Protecting Women?

“I have just been cast away and I will not stand to see this happen to someone else."

Photo by Darina Belonogova / Pexels

In 2022, Natasha O’Brien was knocked unconscious, left with a broken nose, a concussion, and PTSD following an unprovoked attack from a member of the defence forces.

The attack was caught on CCTV, was pled guilty to, and was even bragged about on social media, and yet Cathal Crotty was handed a suspended sentence by judge Tom O’Donnell.

The judge, who is retiring this week, said that jailing Crotty would mean the end of his career. Natasha said that she felt like she was “going to die.”

“He may not remember, but my memory of the vicious, sinister look in his eyes as he approached me will haunt me forever,” she said outside the court. “I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be here today to have my voice heard. I am here to seek justice, not just for myself, but to protect others.”

What followed this weekend were nationwide protests in Limerick, Dublin, Galway, and beyond. Thousands took to the streets in solidarity with Natasha, and to highlight the injustices of Ireland’s legal system – one that can see a man beat a woman unconscious and let him walk away free.

The case has been described as a watershed moment, and for good reason. Ireland is not a safe place for women. A new report from Women’s Aid just last week showed that domestic violence cases are currently at an all-time high.


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Since 1996, 266 women have died violently in Ireland. Half of these were by a former or current partner. Natasha’s attacker was not known to her. He was a stranger who beat her up when she politely asked him to stop using a homophobic slur, who later said on Snapchat: “Two to put her down, two to put her out.”

If a judge can hear that and still hand down a suspended sentence, what hope do we have? If a legal system can ignore such a violent attack and do nothing, how are women ever supposed to feel safe?

Following the ruling, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee commended Natasha for her bravery, and said that the decision can be appealed. Natasha, however, said that an appeal is the “least of our concerns.”

“The concern for me is the allowance of this to ever have happened,” she said, as reported by the BBC. “What is happening with the Irish Defence Forces? What’s going on with the system of justice? Why are they failing victims?

“I have just been cast away and I will not stand to see this happen to someone else. It is not okay and it needs to change.”

Last week also saw another protest take place – this time in Phoenix Park following an alleged homophobic attack on three young men.

Senator Barry Ward told the Seanad that the men were “hunted” with knives in the park. A teenager has since been arrested in connection with the incident.

Both protests took place on Saturday and Sunday, one after the other – a crucial and frustrating reminder that violence against women and the LBGTQ+ community is still rife in Ireland.

And that something needs to change quickly to protect victims.