Women travelling alone in Ireland - a problem? There are some places on earth where women should never travel alone, for whatever reasons - thankfully Ireland is not one of them. This does not change the fact that single female travellers should exercise some caution, in several ways.
Crimes Against Women in Ireland
It is an unfortunate fact - sexually motivated crimes against women are on the rise in Ireland. According to the Central Statistics Office sexual offences rose by 60% from 2009 to 2010>.
While such general statistics include a large amount of domestic and spousal abuse (and a rise may be due to more reporting) they are certainly a warning. Overall the risk to women travelling in Ireland seems to be on par with the majority of Middle-European countries, the USA and Canada. But it should never be assumed that Ireland is a particularly "safe" destination. Fact: of all tourists killed in Ireland during the last few years, most were traffic casualties or victims of other accidents. The only two murder victims ... were both young women travelling alone at the time of death.
Therefore normal precautions should be taken - as in every city or country you are a stranger to.
Attitudes Towards Unaccompanied Women in Ireland
Maybe this statement from a female colleague sums it up: "Irish men can be oh-so-charming, with light-hearted banter, that glint in the eye and similar - but it is really hard to get rid of some of them!"
Unless you are looking like Ripley ready to defend the "Nostromo" (or something dragged backwards through the hedge), you will get sized up, evaluated on the desirability stakes and then be chatted up at some point. When and how depends on the locality, the clientèle and the volume of alcohol involved. As some Irish men in such a situation rate themselves as God's gift to women refusal or a lack of interest is sometimes not taken lightly.
Sex in Ireland
Sex out of wedlock was anathema to most Irish until fairly recently, the sexual revolution by-passing the Emerald Isle several times and by miles. This changed dramatically over the last years. And it seems as if part of the population is trying to make up time occasionally ...
Unfortunately neither sexual education nor hygiene seems to have kept up with this trend. The chance of catching a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is high. So whatever you do - use protection. Ideally bring your own, condoms are fairly expensive in Ireland and not always readily to be found after hours. And never rely on an Irish male to provide his own. Even if he does they might have lived in his pocket a long time, next to his car keys and small change, ready to shred at the slightest provocation.
What Part of "No" Don't Irish Men Understand?
Irish men often have to be told repeatedly and forcefully that the object of their desire is not interested at all. "Ah, go on, just for fun ..." might be the answer you get when you categorically state that no carnal desires have been aroused in you. As if you are to take comfort in a statement that implies marriage is not contemplated (yet) ....
If you feel that a man is looking for more than you are willing to give, bluntly tell him so. Don't continue flirting, become business-like and stand firm. It might take him a few more tries to give up, though.
If you are cursed with a very thick-headed or well-inebriated specimen of Irish manhood, prepare for a dignified (and safe) retreat. Ask for help if necessary. People are occasionally too hesitant to interfere in other people's business, sometimes even ignoring a crime in progress. But it is easy to shame most of them into action by a direct approach. "Could you help me, please ...?"
Things to Avoid in Ireland
There are a few things you might better avoid if traveling alone as a female in Ireland:
- Avoid lingering - if you object to any contact, state so clearly and break away from it.
- Avoid ambiguity - use a clear, loud "No!" and appropriate body language to make your point.
- Avoid getting drunk - if you render yourself defenceless you are a fool, watch out for "spiked" drinks (though a sneaked-in shot of vodka is more likely than a dose of flunitrazepam.
- Avoid close physical contact until you are really sure you want any.
- Avoid being alone with (a) male stranger(s), especially with somebody wanting to show you "a short cut".
- Avoid hitch-hiking alone.
- Avoid any known trouble spots, enquire at your accommodation about them.
- Avoid following any invitation to a "house party" with strangers.
And finally - never assume that all is well because you heard the Irish are all so nice and helpful. There are nut-cases and potential perpetrators about everywhere, even on the Emerald Isle.
In an Emergency ...
Due to a general increase in violent behaviour and escalation at the slightest provocation it is not recommended to fight back, choose the quick exit instead. Walk away from any uncomfortable situation, choosing a "safe" direction (i.e. up to the barman or a bouncer, into the nearest open establishment, into a crowd, even up to the nearest front door) and making others aware of you plight.
If you are cornered, do not try any fancy stuff - a powerful kick into the testicles and a sprint should be your choice of action. And if in a city avoid entering one of the rabbit warrens of back alleys. Run in the middle of the road if you must, this will get you attention ...
Call for police assistance as soon as possible - and raise such a fuss that witnesses cannot ignore you and feel compelled to dial 112, the emergency number.
A Final Note - Regarding Self-Defence Aids and Weapons
Due to the threat of terrorism Ireland's laws on weapons are strict - in fact any weapons apart from shotguns and hunting rifles are illegal.
This includes many items traditionally used for non-lethal self-defence. Tazers, stun guns, pepper spray and similar instruments are banned. If you possess or even use them you might find yourself in a difficult legal position. Even if you were the intended victim at the start.