There has been a 25% increase in reports of domestic abuse during the Covid-19 lockdown, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan says.
Mr Flanagan said in the Dáil that 16 Divisional Protective Service Units have been rolled out across the country to combat the abuse and assist its victims.
He said that he wishes to make clear to the men and women affected by domestic violence that they can avail of supports: "I want the message to clearly go out to the women and men who suffer these dreadful crimes that supports and services are still available despite the pandemic; and that the civil and criminal justice system will continue to prioritise your support and safety."
Mr Flanagan said that the issue remains a priority for An Garda Síochána, who he praised as having a "real sense of purpose" throughout the pandemic.
"As Minister, I thank them and other frontline workers for their service. I am conscious too of the sacrifices often made by the families of Gardaí. It cannot be easy, to know that a loved one’s working day can expose them to danger. The reality is that the actions of Gardaí during these difficult days are creating a new and positive entry in the proud history of the service."
The figures come as pharmacy chain, Boots, announced it is establishing a safe space initiative in its stores for women. Under the scheme, women can go to their local Boots store and access a 'safe space' in a pharmacy consultation room.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman, Jim O'Callaghan, said the scheme is welcome, but noted that it is only neccesary due to a lack of suitable refuge space.
“Some women and children fleeing violence are left with little option but to return to their abuser by virtue of the lack of refuge spaces. For anyone experiencing domestic violence, please be assured that help is available. It is important that people are aware of the signs of people who may perhaps be experiencing domestic violence in the home but cannot escape from their abuser or indeed use the phone."
Mr Flanagan said that a new bill which will overhaul governance and oversight of the gardaí, the Policing and Community Safety Bill, is "well advanced" by his department.
"[The Bill] will redefine policing to include prevention of harm in particular to those who are vulnerable; and place an obligation on relevant State agencies to cooperate with Gardaí in relation to community safety."
Once the bill is drafted, it will be brought to the government to be approved and published before making its way through the Oireachtas.