A special committee of Cork County Council is to look at the possibility of setting up women’s refuges and ‘safe houses’ after an impassioned plea was made by a councillor who described how she was once a victim of domestic abuse.
June Murphy was congratulated for her bravery by fellow councillors after she outlined what happened to her and highlighted the need for the local authority to help the increasing number of women who are seeking to escape from domestic abuse.
Councillors listened intently at a meeting in County Hall as Ms Murphy provided them with figures she had been provided with from YANA, the North Cork Domestic Violence Project.
The figures showed a major increase in the number of people accessing its services from 2015 to last year.
Ms Murphy pointed out that Cork is the largest county in Ireland, yet it has no refuge and has to rely on already over-stretched services in the city or as far away as Tralee and Ennis.
“I can remember when I left with a box of toys and some clothes and went to a women’s refuge in Ennis with my son for three months. I can’t say how important it is for a woman to get into a safe environment,” said Ms Murphy.
“This could save lives. You can’t comprehend how important it is for women and children to access a safe place where they can rebuild their lives.”
Ms Murphy pleaded with her officials to set up a refuge in the county and work in partnership on the project with YANA and a similar organisation, West Cork Women Against Domestic Violence.
Ms Murphy said the local authority has to act fast as the YANA figures speak for themselves.
“I know it’s a huge ask. But I believe we as a council can make this happen,” she said.
Independent councillor Noel Collins said that if it wasn’t for the shelter at Edel House in Cork City, many more women would be left out in the cold.
Fianna Fáil councillor Gobnait Moynihan said that if a woman from Macroom wants to escape an abusive relationship, she is faced with moving herself and her children either to the city or Tralee. This isn’t ideal, she said, adding that women want to try and keep some normality in the lives of their children and moving so far away would be uprooting their from their school and friends.
“I believe we should take a role in this. We should work with stakeholders and explore options. We need to create a destination for these women where they can feel safe,” said Fianna Fáil councillor Gillian Coughlan.
Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Rose Desmond said the figures quoted by Ms Murphy were alarming.
“The council should take a lead on this. We also need to make direct contact with the HSE to see what measures can be taken,” she said.
Independent councillor Timmy Collins said he admired Ms Murphy’s courage, as did fellow Independent Danny Collins, who said he was sure that West Cork Women Against Violence would be more than willing to work on any project with the county council.
Independent councillor Diarmaid Ó Cadhla said it might be better to set up a number of ‘safe houses’ around the county rather than one large shelter. “These families also need counselling services and financial support,” he said.
Mayor of Co Cork Patrick Gerard Murphy, a Fianna Fáil councillor, thanked Ms Murphy for sharing her experiences and said the council’s housing special purposes committee would look into her request.
Committee chairman Seamus McGrath, a Fianna Fáil councillor, said he would be happy to take the issue up with Maurice Manning, the council’s director of housing.