Nine counties have no refuge for women, children suffering domestic violence - SF leader

Taoiseach says domestic abuse has become ‘absolute priority’ since Minister for Justice Helen McEntee addressed issue

Mary Lou McDonald says the State has failed to meet its obligations. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Nine counties in the State still have no shelter for women and children suffering domestic abuse, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

She highlighted the Women’s Aid report which showed the highest level of domestic violence disclosures in the organisation’s 50-year history and called for an “emergency action plan” to deliver refuges.

Speaking in the Dáil she said the State had failed to meet its obligations, and the lack of refuges meant that “women and children desperately seeking escape ended up staying in or returning to violent and abusive homes”.

She highlighted “frightening” figures showing more than 40,000 disclosures of abuse against women and children, an 18 per cent increase on the previous year.


The report detailed “horrific violence that women experienced at the hands of partners or ex-partners – attacks with weapons, sexual assaults, threats against their life and the lives of children, persistent surveillance, the control of household and family finances, and the consequences for women and children can be catastrophic”.

The third National Strategy on Domestic Sexual and Gender-Based Violence must be fully resourced and “the Ombudsman for Children must be granted funding to participate in that strategy”, she said.

Cuan, the dedicated agency on domestic violence, “must be made fit for purpose and have the autonomy to address the crisis effectively”.

Taoiseach Simon Harris said it had not been a “social and national priority” but with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, it “has become an absolute priority”.

Funding for service providers had risen from €20 million to €59 million annually with plans to double the number of refuge spaces to 280. State agency Cuan will publish quarterly tracking reports on progress.

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said domestic violence was “endemic, systemic and it’s growing”, but with “almost no progress” on the “chronic shortage” in refuge spaces.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry said 48 per cent of women who reported to gardaí “found the gardaí to be unhelpful” and that had to be discussed.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly said a taskforce reported in 1997 with “prevention” as a key recommendation but this had never been dealt with in any subsequent report or document.

Mr Harris said he would “familiarise myself” with that report.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times