‘No woman should spend her life hostage to an abusive partner’

Róisín Ingle speaks to the women behind Clare Haven women's refuge

Listen | 45:29

It was a chance meeting in 1992 which brought Ennis women Colette Reddington and Mary Fitzgerald together.

When their paths crossed, both were seeking shelter for victims of domestic abuse, but were struggling to find local services.

After realising there were no refuges available, not only in their hometown of Ennis, but in the entire county of Clare, the women decided to take action.

Speaking to Róisín Ingle for The Irish Times Women’s Podcast, Colette explains how the pair originally brought women into their own homes, before renting a small terrace house in the centre of town, taking in one family at a time.


“Our only security system was putting furniture up against the door,” she says, recalling the early days of running the service.

“No woman should spend her life hostage to an abusive partner,” she adds.

After years of fundraising and recruiting volunteers, what started out as a “naive” undertaking to help women leave abusive homes, soon evolved into Clare Haven, a dedicated refuge for women and children, which was opened by then-President Mary McAleese in 2002.

The team also established Haven Horizons, a charity which focuses on prevention activities including education, research, collaborative partnerships, and piloting best-practice models.

Colette quotes Bishop Desmond Tutu as she explains the critical need for a focus on domestic abuse prevention: “you can keep pulling people out of the river, but at some stage you have to go upstream and see why they’re falling in.”

In this episode, we also hear from Madeline McAleer, research, training, and development director of Haven Horizons, who expands on the important work being done by the charity.

“It’s like putting sticky plasters on the issue, if you don’t stop it happening, you’re going to have to keep dealing with it,” she says.

You can listen back in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.