This shameful lack of spaces means an average of eight women are turned away from refuges every day in Ireland

The government must immediately act on its belated commitment to significantly increase the number of refuge spaces, according to Social Democrats Social Justice Spokesperson Holly Cairns.

“In an interview with Morning Ireland this morning, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said she was committed to increasing the number of refuge spaces to more than 400 from its risibly low base of 140. While this is welcome, it represents a complete reversal to the government’s previous position of vigorously defending the low number of refuge spaces in the country as perfectly adequate.

“As it stands, we have fewer than one-third of the refuge spaces recommended by the Istanbul Convention. There are nine counties without a single refuge space. This shameful lack of spaces means an average of eight women are turned away from refuges every day in Ireland. I have raised this issue repeatedly in the Dáil, with various Ministers, and on every occasion the status quo – of a chronic under provision of spaces – has been defended.

“Minister McEntee, in her interview today, also seemed to blame the community and voluntary sector for the failure to provide refuge spaces in the nine counties of the country with no beds. It should be noted that successive governments have always been content to outsource responsibility for providing this service to the voluntary sector. If there are gaps in services – and we all know, there are – then blame falls squarely with this government and previous governments.

“The government’s forthcoming strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence is not the first such strategy. It is the third – the first dating from 2010, just a year before Fine Gael took office. Throughout all of that time, the chronic shortage of refuge spaces was not addressed.

“Tackling domestic, sexual and gender-based violence will require difficult societal and cultural change, which will take some time to deliver. By contrast, increasing the provision of bricks and mortar refuge spaces should be relatively straightforward.

“This government, and successive Fine Gael-led governments, have failed, for far too long, to address this important issue and women and children have suffered as a result. There can be no further excuses for more delay. The Minister must clarify when these extra refuge spaces will be delivered.”

8 February, 2022


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