Women need to be “vigilant” not “frightened”

Just as it was announced on Monday, by Superintendent Denis Shields, Longford Garda Station that a man was arrested in connection with the sexual assault of a woman in her thirties in the town last week, a ‘Reclaim the Streets’ protest walk to encourage Longford women “not to be afraid” was organised by Tina Keown, Hurson/McManus Sinn Fein Cumman.

Just as it was announced on Monday, by Superintendent Denis Shields, Longford Garda Station that a man was arrested in connection with the sexual assault of a woman in her thirties in the town last week, a ‘Reclaim the Streets’ protest walk to encourage Longford women “not to be afraid” was organised by Tina Keown, Hurson/McManus Sinn Fein Cumman.

Cllr Peggy Nolan also called for calm among women in Longford this week, in what is now the aftermath of an eight-week period in which two women were allegedly sexually assaulted and a third woman, believed to be in her 60s, became the victim of a physical attack, in what gardaí are now describing as “a random attack” outside her home. The man arrested in connection with last week’s assault was released without charge, however a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in respect of the matter and it is she who will decide if he will be subsequently charged.

“The walk has been organised to highlight that women in Longford should not be afraid to walk on the streets no matter what time it is,” Mr Keown explained.

“We are meeting with Superintendent Shields with regard to this walk and we are hoping that he along with all the gardaí in Longford will attend the event so that they can be provided with an opportunity to let women in Longford know that they are doing everything that they can do in relation to the recent attacks on women. We also want the gardaí to know that they will get all the help and support that they need from members of the public.”

Ms Keown went on to say that the walk from the Market Square to Longford Courthouse – which takes place on Friday, December 9 at 8pm – aims to encourage women not to become afraid, but rather to maintain a proactive approach and call the gardaí immediately if they notice anything suspicious.

“People should report anything suspicious to the gardaí and not become directly involved in situations themselves,” Ms Keown warned. “If we remain vigilant at all times, then collectively we can protect each other. Everyone is invited to come along and join in the walk, it’s not just for women, it’s for everybody.”

Meanwhile Cllr Peggy Nolan (FG) advised women across the county “not to fear” but to instead ensure that they are “informed and aware” and “exercise vigilance” at all times. “There has been three attacks on women over the past couple of months and I have met with many women over the weekend, some of whom are frightened, others are not aware of how serious the situation is and there are others who have said to me that they have become extremely vigilant since these attacks began,” said Cllr Nolan, adding that vigilance “was the way forward”, not fear.

“There are also important measures that we can take, like walking in groups and avoiding walking alone where possible. It’s a very busy time of the year for women with Christmas approaching, so awareness and vigilance at all times could really help to prevent another attack.”