Minister Mitchell O’Connor meets students to discuss consent

The meeting took place at Dublin Castle

Student and college representatives attended a higher education workshop on consent in Dublin Castle today. The event was held by Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor with the aim of the bringing together higher education representatives, students unions, and other stakeholders to address the issue of sexual violence in third level education.

Attendees were joined by Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, Detective Superintendent of An Garda Síochána, Declan Daly, and senior officials from the Department of Justice and Equality. Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Vice-President for Welfare and former Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Welfare Officer Damien McClean made a presentation at the event.

The workshops follow a report last month which said that three students had made claims of sexual assault at University College Cork (UCC) during Freshers’ week. Mitchell O’Connor noted that “sexual harassment and assault are experiences too common for many of our third level students”. She also brought attention to “a recent NUIG study which showed that some seventy percent of women, and some forty percent of  men, reported some level of sexual hostility by the end of their third level studies”.

The National College of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) report referred to by the minister surveyed 3,500 students at previous consent workshops across the country. The workshops were led by the NUIG SMART Consent initiative.

Mitchell O’Connor also stated: “third level institutions have a responsibility in this area, and many have run sexual consent workshops for their students. These programmes and workshops can have a significant positive impact on the students they engage with.”

Mitchell concluded by saying: “It is really important that students also take responsibility and I am hoping that the advice given by An Garda Síochána today will bring home the seriousness of these crimes. Every year, over 40,000 students enter our third level sector. Students do not appear to be as sensitive as they ought to be to the impact of drinking and drugs on the capacity to give consent”.

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDS) have ran compulsory consent workshops for Trinity Hall (Halls) residents for the last three years. College recently approved a €15,000 expansion for the workshops which is set to roll them out to societies and sports clubs.