Monday 26 September 2016

'Shame and cowardice' - Taoiseach condemns men who engage in domestic violence and promises Dail debate

John Downing and Ed Carty

Published 15/06/2016 | 10:26

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TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has condemned men who engage in domestic violence against women and children.

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Mr Kenny was speaking in the Dáil after a new report revealed over 22,000 instances of attacks on women and children in the past year.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin called for an urgent Dáil debate and a timeline for enacting a new Criminal Justice Victims of Crime Bill. He also urged an extension of more protection to women cohabiting with partners.

Mr Howlin said women were choked, scalded, cut with knives, and hit with golf clubs. "These are acts of barbarism," Mr Howlin said.

The Taoiseach said the report contained "a litany of shame and cowardice" which he condemned.

"Those who do these things should be ashamed of themselves because they bring shame on our country," Mr Kenny said.

The Taoiseach hoped the Dáil will soon debate the report from Women's Aid and he promised to update Mr Howlin on progress of the Bill.

Independent TD, Joan Collins, noted Mr Howlin's comments, but added that he had spent five years in Government and this problem was not new.

Earlier today. it was revealed women suffering domestic violence reported their abusive partners threatened to kill them, their children or families almost 1,000 times last year.

Support organisation Women's Aid said it was told of almost 600 other instances when men assaulted their wives or girlfriends with weapons, strangled or smothered them or threatened to use a weapon on them.

Its research over the last 20 years showed 46% of killings of women were done without a weapon and a quarter of victims were strangled.

Margaret Martin, the charity's director, said: "Strangulation or choking is a form of control used to instil fear and terror. Bare hands can be the most dangerous weapon.

"Over these 20 years, 211 women have been murdered in Ireland. 13 children were murdered alongside their mothers. In the resolved cases, 55% of women were killed by their partners or ex-partners. These statistics are a stark reminder of the dangerous and sometimes fatal nature of domestic abuse and the tragedy it brings for family, friends and communities.

"The killing of women, and in some cases, their children, by abusive men is an affront to our society and a problem we must take seriously."

Women's Aid said it received 22,341 reports last year - 16,375 related to domestic abuse against women and 5,966 of child abuse.

Ireland signed the Istanbul Convention last year to define and ultimately criminalise forced marriage, female genital mutilation, stalking and physical, psychological and sexual violence among others.

But one third of the required family spaces in refuges and emergency barring orders are not yet in law.

Women's Aid repeated its call for the Government to extend protection to young women in dating relationships, who it said are less likely to recognise controlling and coercive behaviour and more susceptible to insidious abuse online, through phones and social media.

Proposed laws currently only protect women who have been living with an abusive partner or who have a child with them.

"You are never too young to be abused by an intimate partner," Ms Martin said.

"There exists an opportunity to close this gap. This bill was not brought into law during the lifetime of the last government and this legislation remains at draft stage. With a new Government and a new Dail, we urge the Tanaiste and Minister for Justice (Frances Fitzgerald), to grasp this opportunity to extend cover to young women in dating relationships in the draft legislation."

Women's Aid also said the state should fully fund a 24/7 helpline and other vital domestic violence support services such as refuges.

Despite being hit with a 20% funding cut, it took 1,400 calls in its out of hours night service in the first few months of this year.

The Women's Aid Impact Report 2015 revealed:

:: 970 reports that abusive partners threatened to kill their wife or girlfriend, their children and their families.

:: Another 579 reports from women of assaults with weapons, threats with weapons and being strangled and smothered.

:: Its support staff went to court with victims of abuse 239 times last year.

:: Some 10,876 reports to charity were emotional abuse, 3,281 were physical attacks, 1,602 were financial and 616 were sexual violence including 212 disclosures of rape.

:: 81% of abusers were men described as "intimate partners" including 42% who were husbands, 17% ex-partner, 16% partners and 6% ex-husbands.

:: The reports of abuse of children included 5,582 disclosures of emotional abuse and 281 where children were physically or sexually abused by their mother's attacker.

:: In another cases, children were abused 82 times during access visits and 21 child abduction cases were reported.

:: 3% of callers to the helpline were men.

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