The Irish Times view on violence against women: time to stop the scourge

There is still much to do in changing the culture of ambiguity towards gender-based violence but there are also concrete steps which can and should be taken

When Ashling Murphy was murdered on January 12th last year, the public outpouring of grief and anger from women and men across the country prompted an unusually swift political response, along with a promise of real systemic and legislative change. Now that her killer has been sentenced, one question becomes even more pressing: will her memory, along with that of so many other women, be honoured with effective measures that address the ongoing scourge of male violence against women?

The daily litany of news stories and court reports recording murders, rapes, assaults and psychological abuse of women, most commonly by men they know well, offers a daily reminder of the relentless nature of the problem. Ashling Murphy’s death at the hands of a stranger may have been relatively unusual but that is little consolation for women who understandably feel under threat in what should be safe public spaces.

There is still much to do through education, debate and self-reflection in changing the unacceptable culture of ambiguity that still exists in some quarters towards gender-based violence. But there are also concrete steps which can and should be taken. In May,a joint Department of Justice and National Women’s Council report found women and children were being left in life-threatening situations due to the failure of the courts, gardaí and Tusla to collaborate on domestic violence cases. It called for a comprehensive review and reform of the in-camera rule in family courts, as well as mandatory domestic violence training for all relevant professionals.

This week, presenting the second stage of the Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Agency Bill, which allows for the setting up of a new agency dedicated to tackling domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV), Minister for Justice Helen McEntee told the Seanad the new agency forms a part of the third national strategy on DSGBV, which proposes a “zero tolerance” approach to domestic violence.


A Council of Europe report published this week confirmed the necessity for further action. The report echoed concerns expressed previously about inadequate training for frontline workers and judges. It noted application of lenient sentences in cases of domestic violence and sexual violence/rape, including the tendency of courts to rely on suspended or conditional sentences. And it recommended the introduction of a review mechanism of all gender-based killings of women to prevent further deaths, keep women safe and hold all actors and agencies involved in their cases to account.

The Minister assured the Seanad the systems now being put in place will ensure the State’s response to DSGBV is robust, effective, timely and appropriate. Let us hope she is correct.