New statutory agency for domestic and gender-based violence receives support

Report recommends for the urgent provision of another 50 to 60 refuge spaces

The development manager of the Offaly Domestic Violence Support Services, has expressed support for a new statutory agency to oversee the State’s response to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

Anne Clarke, who is also a member of Safe Ireland, told RTÉ radio's Today with Claire Byrne show that while she was delighted to see progress, she was concerned that providing more spaces in refuges was not enough.

Under plans to be brought to Cabinet on Tuesday, following the completion of a report by Tusla, there is a recommendation for the urgent provision of another 50 to 60 refuge spaces.

The Tusla report highlights gaps in geographic coverage for refuge spaces and concludes there are not enough spaces to meet the needs of the population.


While the report does not recommend the establishment of a new agency, Ms McEntee will brief Cabinet on a plan to begin a short public and stakeholder consultation on a third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender based violence (DSGBV).

Ms Clarke said the issue was not just about a shortage of refuge spaces, it was also about resources for other services such as HAP which can take up to six months to access. There needed to be an examination of other levels of protection such as out of hours protection.

There needed to be support for all services and to ensure that all agencies interact and that there was engagement throughout the entire process, she said.

Ms Clarke admitted she was concerned about the timeline for the establishment of the new agency. There should be no interruption of services when there was a move from Tusla to the new agency.

Demand was still rising for access to domestic violence services, she said. There was a need for a more cohesive response, a whole-of-community response involving the police, judiciary, the Departments of the Environment, Social Protection and Housing.

“A lot of women leaving abusive relationships have huge poverty.”

There was a need to support women on their journey from an abusive relationship, added Ms Clarke, who went on to thank Minister for Justice Helen McEntee for bringing forward the plan for the new agency.

New agency

Once the strategy has been completed – likely during the spring – Ms McEntee will present it to Government and seek further approval for the establishment of the new statutory agency. The new body will need legislation passed to support it, and in the interim, oversight of the area will pass from the Department of Children to the Department of Justice. The transfer of those responsibilities will be governed by a memorandum of understanding between the two departments.

It is expected that it will take between 18 and 24 months to put the new agency on a statutory footing. The programme for Government commits the Coalition to implement a plan for future refuge space on the publication of the review.

The move to establish a new agency, which comes in the wake of heightened public attention on the issue of gender-based violence following the killing of Ashling Murphy in January, was described by one source as a "major departure". Ms McEntee has made tackling the issue one of her chief aims during her time in the justice brief.

Functions of the new agency, while yet to be fully determined, will include the delivery of services to victims of DSGBV, as well as providing helplines and other support, coordinating government action, and gathering data to inform future policy and awareness campaigns. The new agency will answer to the Minister for Justice and follow policy direction they set.