The safety of women in Irish prisons is “of paramount importance”, Ciara Kelly has warned.
She was speaking after the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said ‘violent biological males’ should not be housed in women’s prisons.
Mr Varadkar was responding to questions about a transgender woman who was last week jailed for threatening to torture, rape and murder her mother.
21-year-old Barbie Kardashian, who legally changed her name and was granted a gender recognition certificate in 2020, was sentenced to five-and-a-half years with the final year suspended.
She is currently being held at Limerick Women’s Prison.
Asked whether he thought 'violent biological males’ should be placed in women’s prisons, the Taoiseach said: “No I don’t quite frankly”.
Noting that something similar recently happened in Scotland, he said Ireland "may have to deal with it in a similar way".
“I know a similar situation arose in Scotland and it was necessary there to change the law so that women were protected,” he said.
“So, we may have to consider that but I only heard about this at the weekend so I would like to inform myself fully [before commenting].
'Women's safety is paramount'
Newstalk Breakfast presenter Ciara Kelly said she was glad the issue was being discussed noting, “There has been a lot of political silence on this issue.”
“I agree with the Taoiseach,” she said. “Not for any reason of transphobia or the various nonsense that people argue about on social media.
“It is because I believe that the safety of women in women’s prisons is of paramount importance.
“Because I don’t believe a violent, male-bodied prisoner who has been convicted of sexual assault and has threatened to rape his mother with implements … a massively violent prisoner, should be housed in a female prisoner.
“We need to deal with this. It is a thorny issue but we need to deal with this as grown-ups.”
When it was put to her that politicians in the main do not want to deal with the issue, Ciara said: “We can’t run away like ostriches on issues that are about the safety of women.”
Fellow presenter Shane Coleman said it is time for the interim Justice Minister Simon Harris to speak out on the situation.
He said Minister Harris has already told the Dáil that the Irish Prison Service is aware of two prisoners who were born male but are now legally recognised as female.
Both are being detained in female prisons for sexual offences.
Shane said Minister Harris cautioned that Irish prisoners are not legally defined as male or female and are accommodated with regard to their safety and the safety of the wider prison pop.
“I think he needs to come out and say what is going to happen in relation to this issue,” he said.
“To be fair, the Taoiseach was asked the question and he answered it yesterday. I think we need to hear from the Justice Minister on where this goes from here.”
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) recently announced that transgender offenders would be sent to jails matching the gender they were assigned at birth.
That came amid controversy over the decision to send a double rapist to a women’s prison.