NDVIA closure - Vulnerable women will bear the cost

The plight of the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency (NDVIA), which is faced with closure tomorrow because of lack of funds, is symptomatic of the chauvinistic attitude of the present Government towards violence against women.

It needed a niggardly €3 million to remain open, but left empty-handed after a meeting with officials of the Department of Justice yesterday.

For the last decade the issues of rape, domestic violence and sexual violence against women have been acknowledged by the coalition of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats by what it has overwhelmingly failed to achieve.

It has, instead, largely paid lip service to a shocking problem in society that has affected well over 214,000 women, and which every day represents a very real threat to thousands of women all over the country.

Ten years after signing the Beijing Declaration which, among other things, sought to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women, the Government is still shamefully bereft of any semblance of an official policy on violence against women.

In the same year, 1997, Report of the Task Force on Violence Against Women was launched, while the Government promised a blueprint of change which would finally face up to the issues of such violence.

Not only did that not happen, the issue of violence against women has stagnated on the coalition’s order of priorities that even a national helpline that was twice promised never materialised.

Had the Government invested the time and energy of the Taoiseach, at least two senior ministers and several junior ministers in implementing badly needed resources and supports, instead of avoiding them, the much heralded blueprint for change would have happened.

When, in 1999, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern launched the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness he pledged to put in place the structures which would implement the recommendations of the task force of two years previously. It never happened.

Rather perplexingly, Junior Minster Frank Fahey, who is responsible for women’s equality, denies the Government has anything to apologise for and patronisingly said women had been the backbone of Ireland’s recent economic success.

This, despite the fact he admits that funding for women’s welfare groups had not been satisfactory, and for a few years funding support groups and the rape crisis centres had been operating on a shoestring.

In fact, for quite a while the support sector had lobbied without success for a €7 million investment, which would merely have brought into line with 2002 levels.

One of the problems is that five Government departments are responsible for the areas involved, but the significance which they attach to them is reflected in the fact that very often meetings of the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women (NSCVWA) are ignored.

Two documents that have been promised to be published by the Government, but to no avail, are the National Women’s Strategy and the strategic plan by the NSCVWA.

Mr Fahey was able to announce that both will be published before the General Election.

Hardly coincidental.

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