Call for new taskforce on domestic violence

A taskforce and more specially trained gardaí are needed to tackle domestic violence in homes across Ireland, it was claimed today.

A taskforce and more specially trained gardaí are needed to tackle domestic violence in homes across Ireland, it was claimed today.

A community development worker said there are not enough resources for women, who are now afraid in their own homes as well as out on the streets.

Aileen Foran, who works with the Ringsend Action Project (Rap) in Dublin, said more funding is also needed to man overburdened helplines.

The group is holding a commemoration service this Wednesday in St Patrick's Church, Ringsend, at 7.30pm, to remember the 138 women murdered in Ireland over the past 11 years and offer solidarity and encouragement to their families.

In Ireland, it is estimated that one in five women will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives.

"More has to be done for women in Ireland," said Mrs Foran.

"They are afraid in their homes but there is nowhere for them to go.

"The only place to go for help is Women's Aid, but there is a shortfall of calls that they cannot answer.

"I tried it five times during the week and nobody answered those calls. They need more funding.

"More and more women are also scared to go out on their own and walk the streets because innocent victims are being violently killed."

In 2006, Women's Aid answered almost 12,000 calls - 60% of which related to emotional abuse, 25% to physical abuse, 10% focused on financial abuse and 5% related to sexual abuse.

Recent figures also showed that one in five Irish women has been involved in an abusive relationship, with one in seven suffering severe physical, sexual or emotional abuse from a partner at some time in their lives.

Mrs Foran said Garda resources must improve.

"There should be extra training at Templemore in domestic violence so gardai have more specific knowledge of that field," she continued.

"We need a special taskforce to deal purely with domestic violence and more gardai on the beat to make women feel safe."

Since 2002 Rap has marked the annual 16 Days of Action Opposing Violence Against Women by paying tribute to the dead.

Five years ago that number was 83, now it is 138.

"This commemorative service will remember these women," added Mrs Foran.

"It will also highlight that we are not doing enough to protect them."

Five churches will be represented at the ecumenical service.

Anne Delcassian, sister of Irene White who was murdered in Dundalk in 2005, will open the service and Peter Keaney, whose teenage daughter Sheola was killed last year, will read the Pope letter.

A letter of solidarity will also be read from President Mary McAleese, and singer Frances Black will perform.

Margaret Martin, director of Women's Aid, which is supporting the service, said she hoped the establishment of the new COSC office - the Irish Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence - will make a significant difference to the current system.

Set up this summer, it collaborates with service providers who support victims and treat perpetrators with the aim of reducing the crime figures.

"People say you should feel safe in your own home, but if you don't feel safe in your own home where can you feel safe?" said Ms Martin.

"As a service we can only do so much. We can highlight an issue, but we can't protect these women. They need the police and adequate refuge.

"We also need specialised domestic violence courts, a court accompanying service for victims and to be able to identify women who are at medium to high risk."

The agency has called on the Government to introduce a National Domestic Violence Plan, similar to the one in place in the UK, to reduce domestic violence homicide in Ireland.

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