Simon Harris praises Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin for speaking out about harassment

ireland
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Kenneth Fox
Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has praised professor Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin for speaking out about the harassment she faced while at UCD.

In an interview with the Irish Times, she spoke at length about her experience with a professor at the university.

Mr Harris said on Twitter that he spoke with Aoibhinn about her experience:

"Thank you Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin for meeting with me, for speaking out & for being determined that we stamp out sexual violence & harassment in third level sector for students & staff - & in society overall. A major priority for me & taking a range of actions to make sure we achieve this."

In the interview, Ms Ní Shúilleabháin said she was frightened of being alone on campus and unnerved almost to the point of abandoning her successful academic career.

On Twitter she said "Everyone deserves to study or work in a safe environment & we need to have conversations and cultural change in order to properly address this problem.

"We have no concrete statistics on the occurrences of sexual harassment involving staff in third level institutions in Ireland, but internationally studies have found that 58 per cent of women faculty and staff have experienced sexual harassment.

She added that "Third level institutions are now working to review and revise their policies & procedures, these should be trauma-informed and person-centred with the wellbeing and safety of the individuals involved of paramount consideration."

Comprehensive approach

Meanwhile, the National Women's Council (NWC) is calling for urgent action by all third level institutions to ensure both staff and students can be safe on campus.

NWC director Orla O'Connor says it is important that she has spoken about it:

"Her experience really does show the devastating impact sexual harassment has. By going public today, Dr Aoibhinn has put a real spotlight on the need for a comprehensive approach across third level institutions to tackle sexual harassment.

"What we want to see is a concerted effort now that there is the new government department for higher education and Minister Simon Harris has said he is making this a priority."

She said that students need to know that there is a zero tolerance approach in universities to sexual harassment and sexual violence.

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