New garda unit to support north Cork's abuse victims 

The Cork North protective services will see two detective sergeants and eight detective gardaí spearhead the fight
New garda unit to support north Cork's abuse victims 
Det. Garda Rachel McGrath, Det. Garda Linda Lyons and Superintendent Adrian Gamble, Midleton at the the Fermoy Community Centre, Co Cork for the launch of the new divisional protective services unit for the Cork North Garda Division. Picture Dan Linehan

The Cork North protective services will see two detective sergeants and eight detective gardaí spearhead the fight, Chief Superintendent Tom Myers said.

The team will comprise of six women and four men. It will focus on domestic, gender and sexual violence, human trafficking and child abuse in the division which encompasses everywhere between Youghal in the east, Kanturk in the west, Cobh in the south and Charleville in the north.

It follows on from the establishment in the Cork City Division of a protective services unit two years ago that has been an "incredible" success, according to long-time sexual violence campaigner Mary Crilly.

Ms Crilly, of the Sexual Violence Centre, said it is certain that in 1983 when she began campaigning that such a protective unit "would not have happened".

Irish people historically did not want to believe that sexual violence and child abuse was prevalent but statistics bear out that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 7 boys have been abused.

Ms Crilly said she has seen "phenomenal changes in the garda system" in recent years, including what she called "amazing work" with the unit in Cork. 

"We hope we can work in Cork North as we do in the city," Ms Crilly said.

Chief Superintendent Myers said the establishment of the unit in Cork North "represents another milestone in An Garda Síochána’s modernisation".

It can be extremely difficult for victims to report crimes of this nature, he said, but capacity to do so has been enhanced in legislation over the past number of years.

The Children’s Act of 2015; National Vetting Bureau National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016; Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act of 2012; Domestic Violence Act of 2018; and the  Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act of 2017 have become vital tools to allow gardaí to tackle such crimes, he said.

"Investigations of these crimes can be complex and victims need to be reassured they will get the maximum support and services once they report to An Garda Síochána. We will continue to work with our community partners as we have always done, but we will now have the opportunity to do this in a more structured and coordinated fashion," he said.

Community partnerships with voluntary organisations and agencies will also be essential, he said.

Crimes cannot be solved by gardaí alone. Protection of vulnerable people is everybody’s business.

Sally Hanlon, founding member and director of services of Support After Crime Services, said the new unit will be a genuine benefit for those who want to come forward.

"We can never imagine what it must be like to carry a secret whether it is for a year or six months or for 20 years, and then decide they are coming forward. When the right person meets them at the right place in the right manner it makes it easier," the 35-year veteran of crime victim work said.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner following the launch of the division, former Cork county councillor and long-time domestic and sexual abuse campaigner, June Murphy, said she hopes to see a protective services unit in every garda division in Ireland.

Ruth Lehane of You Are Not Alone (YANA), the North Cork Domestic Violence Project, said a unit like the new one in Cork North allows an immediate point of contact where victims will get support.

Having women so prominent in the unit will allow an extra dimension of support, she added.

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