Funding for rape crisis centres to be reviewed

Niamh Nolan

Mr O’Malley said Tánaiste and Health Minister Mary Harney has asked the Department, with the Health Service Executive, to undertake an analysis of the current level of service provision with a view to planning future service needs. “The department will continue to monitor the level of investment in services and work with the NGO sector to ensure there is adequate service provision to meet their needs,” he said.

Between 2002 and 2004 a total of 1,314 rape and rape under Section 4 cases were reported to the gardaí. However, just 171 cases were heard in the Central Criminal Court during those three years.

Just 37 cases were heard last year, compared to 130 five years ago. Over the same period, calls to counselling and support services increased dramatically.

In 2002, 3,929 people made first-time contact with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. Nearly 16,000 callers contacted rape crisis centres last year, almost double the figure of three years ago.

In 2003, the Women’s Aid helpline received 18,902 calls and refuges had to turn away at least 700 women and children.

The Rape Crisis Network of Ireland (RCNI) welcomed the minister’s comments.

The RCNI will meet Finance Minister Brian Cowen next week in a bid to boost annual funding for services by E7 million.

“I think that’s very welcome, the funding issue has to be resolved because, while services have become planned and professional, funding remains on an ad hoc basis,” said Fiona Neary of the RCNI.

Mr O’Malley made his comments in response to questions from the Labour Party spokesperson on equality and law reform, Breeda Moynihan Cronin, at an adjournment debate in the Dáil on Wednesday night.

The Kerry South deputy raised the lack of facilities for rape and sexual abuse victims as highlighted in a series in this week’s Irish Examiner and urged the junior minister for health to read the articles in question.

“It is an issue which, for too long, has been neglected, swept under the carpet, and in many instances ignored. I refer to the chronic under-funding of rape and sexual assault services throughout the country and particularly in my own county,” Ms Moynihan Cronin said.

“I wish to pay tribute to the Irish Examiner newspaper for highlighting this issue in recent days and welcome its efforts to push this scandal to the top of the political agenda,” she continued.

The Labour Party deputy expressed concern at the high number of cases ending without conviction and criticised the low level of supports given to services such as rape crisis centres.

“Some 95% of all rape cases do not end in a conviction which is a truly alarming statistic,” she said. “My native county is fortunate to have the Kerry Rape and Sexual Assault Centre to provide a service to those in the county who need such support.

But it is chronically under-funded, has no financial security and no ability to expand its valuable service in the current funding climate.” Mr Moynihan urged Mr O’Malley and Ms Harney to deal with the funding issue as a matter of priority.

“I ask the minister of state to imagine the trauma of the victims and to read the Irish Examiner articles,” she said.

“I ask the minister of state to put his mind to this issue and to ask his minister to do likewise and deal with it as a matter of urgency,” she concluded.

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