Women’s strategy falls short of hopes, says lobby group

A FIVE-YEAR wait by the women’s lobby for the launch of the National Women’s Strategy ended with a sense of disappointment yesterday.

Women’s groups said they welcomed the Government finally providing a 10-year strategy but it fell short of what they hoped for.

National Women’s Council of Ireland Policy officer Orla O’Connor said a lot in the strategy had been released before and there was very little new material.

“Unfortunately it is what we expected it to be. While it does have great ambitions it has very little on mechanisms for actually implementing anything, it has no targets and it is very difficult to see how any of it will be achieved. One significant omission is the objective to decrease the cost of childcare but it has nothing on how this will happen or what resources will be put in place to do it.”

In October 2001 the Department of Justice announced a consultation process to guide the creation of a women’s strategy. Over 300 submissions were made and more than 1,000 people attended public briefings.

The NWCI said the demand for change contained in the statements was not reflected in the document. However, Ms O’Connor said the strategy had positive aspects, especially in the area of social welfare with a commitment to look at ways of eliminating the Qualified Adult pension.

Junior minister Frank Fahey said it would not help the strategy to set goals which could not be met.

“We looked at the idea of targets and felt if they were not attainable nobody would pay attention to them. As in the area of political representation, we said it would be the responsibility of each political party to improve things because they are the ones who can make those decisions,” he said.

Labour’s Roisín Shorthall described the strategy as “disappointing” and that the considerable consultation during the document’s preparation was not reflected in the publication. She also queried why a Government which has been 10 years in office is publishing a national strategy within weeks of an election.

The strategy will see a national office set up to respond to domestic violence. It is suggested it will replace the work being piloted by the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency.

Its director Don Hennessy said he cannot see the philosophy of the department changing. “If any office was willing to take on the work we have been doing then I would be very happy. But I don’t think that is going to be the case. What is really happening is that they are pulling things around them so they can control what is going on.”

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