Councillor Joanna Byrne.
Louth County Council is to consider implementing a scheme to provide free sanitary products in all public buildings across the County, including Town Halls, Community centres, Swimming Pools and Libraries.
The move follows a motion from Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne at this month’s monthly meeting of Louth County Council which put women's health and indeed dignity firmly on the agenda.
Councillor Byrne told the meeting that “period poverty is when a person struggles to or is unable to access sanitary products due to financial constraints, forcing people to use makeshift and inadequate protection.
“Although affordability is one of the main barriers for people in period poverty there are also cultural and social reasons why people can’t access period products. These combined factors are seeing a growing demand among charities and voluntary groups throughout this county for sanitary products. Some cafés and community centres in Louth have recognised this need and are already providing such items free of charge.”
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Councillor Byrne has liaised with Plan Ireland and Homeless Period Ireland while researching this issue and has said she was ‘extremely shocked’ at the statistics on period poverty. Plan International Ireland have found that:
Councillor Byrne said: “That's just a fraction of the frightening findings and I would be confident this is nowhere near a true reflection of the magnitude of the problem as these studies were on random women and girls, not even focusing on the more marginalised in our society such as homeless women, those in direct provision or indeed our 'working poor'.
"For a large number of women it is fast becoming a choice between food and these necessary products, or between paying the bills and making cuts on such items. These choices are leading to all sorts of follow on issues such as the impact on health not to mention the Human Rights aspect of feeling of being powerless and excluded, leading to a loss of dignity and self-esteem."
"Its time for Louth to get pro-active on this. Providing free sanitary products in public buildings will help restore dignity to women who are struggling and help to provide all women in our County with these essential products no matter what their economic circumstances.”
In response to the motion the Chief Executive of LCC Joan Martin told Cllr Byrne that she would consult with other local authorities who have such a scheme in place and report back to the members.