Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said that the government urgently need to protect survivors of domestic violence.
Speaking on the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, marking the beginning of the 16 Days campaign to highlight gender-based abuse, Teachta McDonald has called for an immediate increase in funding for refuge places; following the failure to do so Budget 2022.
“On the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, I want to commend the many brave women who have spoken out to share their stories, who have raised awareness of violence against women and who are encouraging others to seek help.
“I also want to pay tribute to the many workers and volunteers who dedicate their time to supporting survivors of these appalling crimes. Violence against women is never acceptable and as a society we must send the loud and clear message that we support survivors.
“However, government inaction is failing victims. We cannot talk about the scourge of domestic violence, but at the same time fail to provide resources that are urgently needed, which those in power are prone to doing. That must change.
“The reality is we have a crisis in domestic violence refuges. This is not new. It has been the case for many years and despite desperate pleas from domestic violence charities, the government did not commit funding for a single additional refuge place in Budget 2022.
“Too many counties have no refuge spaces whatsoever. Where refuges are in place, they often have far too few beds available. This means women and their children are often turned away when they desperately seek a place of safety. Data from Safe Ireland shows that, on average, seven women per day were turned away from a refuge during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is indefensible.
“I have raised this issue repeatedly with the government and they have failed to act. I am once again urging the government to ensure that they deliver the number of refuge places to meet unmet demand and to meet Ireland’s obligations under the Istanbul Convention.
“The long awaited Tusla Review of the Provision of Accommodation for Victims of Domestic Violence has yet to be published by the Minister for Children. We urgently need to see that report and its recommendations.
“The introduction of Domestic Homicide Reviews, as is already the norm in the north, is long overdue. The establishment of independent regional multi-agency reviews would be an invaluable tool to protect women. The previous government established an independent study on familicide and domestic homicide reviews which has yet to be finalised and published. Publication of the report needs to be expediated.
“Survivors of domestic violence must also have a right to access paid leave to attend hospital appointments, counselling services, court hearings and other vital appointments.
“My colleague Louise O’Reilly and I have introduced a comprehensive piece of legislation providing for ten days domestic violence paid leave. The government says it supports paid leave but has yet to deliver on this vital right for workers.
“We need urgent action to tackle domestic violence, to support victims and survivors, and to deliver the supports and protections too long denied to them.”