Launching its manifesto yesterday for the forthcoming general election, the organisation said serious action on domestic violence is needed. At an open meeting in Dublin with TDs, senators, and political parties, it called for the reversal of funding cuts to domestic violence services, legal reform, and improved responses from State agencies.
Speaking before the launch, Margaret Martin, the director of Women’s Aid, said: “Domestic violence is a serious crime, one that can result in stress, short and long-term trauma and physical injuries and, in extreme cases, homicide. One in five women in Ireland are affected by domestic violence and in 2014 Women’s Aid heard over 16,000 disclosure of abuse against women and over 5,700 disclosures of abuse against children.
“We know that since we started our records in 1996, 209 women have been murdered in Ireland, 55% of them killed by their partners or ex-partners. In some homicide cases, children, parents, siblings, and friends have also been attacked or killed.”
She said the recent tragedy in Omeath, Co Louth, where Garda Tony Golden lost his life, highlighted just how dangerous domestic violence was.
“The impacts on women, children, and the community around them cannot be minimised or dismissed. We owe it to those affected to take effective political action to protect them, provide them with the support they need and respond fully and appropriately. We must act before more lives are lost and more hurt is caused to women, children and communities.”
Ms Martin said essential services and systems had been severely impacted by the recession. Over the last seven years government funding to Women’s Aid has fallen by 31%.
“This means that waiting times for the courts, health services, and legal aid have all increased, while welfare payments such as rent supplement and one-parent family payments have been reduced. These cuts have real impact on the lives of thousands of women and children living in fear in their own homes.”
She revealed demand for the Women’s Aid Dublin-based one-to-one service has increased by 40% since the start of the recession.
“The most recent cut of 20% to Women’s Aid by Tusla announced in June 2015 came at a time when we were preparing to increase the availability of the national helpline to 24 hours per day, seven days a week in line with the Istanbul Convention and the EU Victims’ Directive,” she said.
“We know how impor- tant it is to be available for women whenever they need us. We call for the reversal of these cuts and adequate funding for the extension of the national helpline.”