Social Democrats TD for Cork South-West, Holly Cairns, has called on the Government to do more to address the alarming increase in domestic abuse and gender-based violence, which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking in the Dáil today, Holly said:
“Safe Ireland have rightly called domestic abuse the ‘shadow pandemic’. During the first six months of Covid-19, there was a significant increase in people fleeing abusive situations, with 3,450 women and 589 children contacting domestic violence services for the first time.
“The impact is being felt across the country. To give just one example in my own constituency, West Cork Women Against Domestic Violence saw a 35% increase in calls this year.
“We knew this was coming. Advocates and support organisations warned us in advance and sought emergency measures and additional funding months ago.
“I acknowledge the initiatives taken by the Government, including some additional funding to organisations in the sector and access to Rent Supplement for victims of domestic violence. However, more – much more – needs to be done.
“The Government must ensure there is additional capacity to accommodate victims of domestic violence for the duration of the pandemic.
“Issues around refuge spaces wouldn’t exist if Ireland lived up to its commitments under the Istanbul Convention. This requires us to provide one refuge space for every 10,000 people. Unlike every other European country, however, we only provide one refuge space per 10,000 women – this means we provide 50% less refuge spaces than what is required.
“Responsibility for this area is spread across several departments. This leads to confusion and abdication of responsibility. The support organisations – who are the experts in this area – are looking for one minister to lead the Government response to this crisis.
“Intersectional issues are relevant here, too. Regrettably, older women, women and girls with disabilities and those from migrant or ethnic minorities are more vulnerable.
“Migrant or undocumented women and girls are at increased risk due to Government policy. For example, issues around translation in our State services are a barrier. In addition, some people are reluctant to approach gardaí for fear of deportation.
“We need firewalls between State services and immigration services. Women, girls and other vulnerable populations need to be assured that they can safely seek medical help, access social welfare and approach the gardaí without running the risk of punitive action by the State.
“We need an acceleration of the Programme for Government commitment to regularising the status of undocumented people. Policy choices by this and previous governments are making more women vulnerable – it is time for this to change.”
November 19, 2020