SANITARY products could be made available free of charge in Donegal’s public buildings following a campaign by a group of schoolchildren.
Elected members of Donegal County Council have agreed that a working group should be set up to explore the provision of sanitary items in community centres, swimming pools and libraries.
The commitment was given in response to research into period poverty carried out by students at Rosses Community School.
Councillor for the Glenties Municipal District, Michéal Choilm Mac Giollaeasbuig, brought a motion before the latest meeting of the local authority asking that the work of the students be supported. He also requested that a cross-political working group be set up to explore the possibility of sanitary items being made freely available both to the public and to council workers.
Teacher Roisin O’Sullivan works with the Rosses Community School Young Social Innovators group. She revealed how as part of their campaign the teenagers created sanitary product dispensers for their school’s bathrooms. They also canvassed TDs, senators and councillors, an exercise that caught the eye of Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan who recently brought her Period Products Bill before the Seanad.
“The more the students researched, the more they realised just how big a problem period poverty is. They surveyed staff and other students and from that they were able to get a sense of period poverty and the stigma around it,” said Ms O’Sullivan.
A survey carried out last year found that an average Irish person spends an extra €61.39 on period products due to their menstrual cycle. The study also revealed that half of females aged between 12 and 19 in Ireland experienced issues paying for sanitary products.
Roisin O’Sullivan said period products were not a luxury item and should be accessible to all who need them. She added that she was delighted the efforts of her students were having an impact at council level.
“It is great for them to see real life changes being made because of their actions,” said Ms O’Sullivan.
“They are a very passionate group and were very self-led and self-motivated. It has been a pleasure to work with them.”
In tabling his motion, Councillor Michéal Choilm Mac Giollaeasbuig made the point that no one would go into a toilet without toilet paper yet “half the population still has to go without this essential service”.
“If it was men depending on these products it would be sorted,” he added.
Donegal County Council becomes the third local authority in Ireland to pass such a motion.
Director of Services for Housing, Corporate and Culture, Joe Peoples, said schemes to make sanitary products available have already been piloted by some local authorities.
The council will contact the relevant authorities to get more information on the detail of the pilot schemes,” he added.