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Sunday 19 November 2017

Harney refuses to guarantee funds for rape crisis centre

Shane Hickey

THE Government has failed to guarantee future funding for a key rape crisis centre despite the number of people using the service rocketing in the wake of recent reports on child abuse.

Health Minister Mary Harney yesterday declined to commit money to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) despite pleas from officials there that the money they receive should be "ring-fenced" at a time when they are dealing with a 40pc spike in calls.

The publication of the Ryan and Murphy reports on institutional abuse last year led to a rise in first-time callers to the DRCC.

Chief executive Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop said she wanted a "firm commitment" from the Government to maintain the €1.1m the centre receives from the Health Service Executive (HSE).

"In order to be able to respond to the increase in the demands on all our services, we need to be confident that the much-appreciated grant we receive from the HSE, which covers two-thirds of our running costs, is ring-fenced," she said.

Ms Harney said she would discuss the matter with the HSE but said it may come down to a choice between funding services and future research in the area of sexual assault.

"Clearly there is a considerable resource that already comes in here and I am quite certain that if we doubled the resource there would be room for more. It is a question of moving forward in an organised fashion," she said.

The DRCC's annual report for its 30th year in operation showed the body got almost 11,000 genuine calls last year -- a rise of 15pc on 2008. Just under 4,200 of these were first-time calls.

"The harrowing first-time calls from victims who have never spoken to another person, in some cases for 60 years, were truly heart-breaking. There was great anger expressed but also great relief in the public airing and validation of survivors' stories at last," Ms O'Malley-Dunlop said.

The low number of sexual assault and rape cases which reach conviction in court also emerged.

Of the 289 cases dealt with by the DRCC that were reported to gardai, just seven went to court, all receiving convictions. Another 30 are pending.

A total of 48pc of callers were dealing with childhood sexual abuse and most were Dublin-based females aged between 18 and 29.

Irish Independent

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