Saturday 21 September 2019

Ministers tasked with examining if sexual violence statistics are adequate

Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has asked ministers to examine if the Irish Government’s statistics on sexual violence are adequate or if new research needs to be carried out.

It comes after criticism of the Government for not committing to fund a €1m study to update Irish research on sexual violence given that the last major study – the SAVI report - is 15 years old.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan along with the Ministers for Children and Health Katherine Zappone and Simon Harris, have been tasked by Mr Vardakar with considering if the current Irish statistics on sexual violence are adequate.

They are also to examine if the statistics are compatible with those collected in other EU countries.

If a gap in the information available is identified, they are to consider if a second SAVI report or another form of study is the best way to obtain new statistics.

On Tuesday the government was criticised by Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald in the Dáil for not providing funding for up-to-date research on sexual violence.

The Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) report was published in 2002 and Ms McDonald said many aspects of the research are “outdated”.

She referred to remarks by Noeline Blackwell of the Dublin Rape Crisis Network said that decisions are being made on how to combat sexual violence based on evidence “so out of date that it might as well be from Dickens”.

Ms McDonald compared the €1m cost of a new report with the expected €5m cost of the Government's new Strategic Communications Unit, which minister have claimed is cost neutral.

She said five Savi reports could be produced for the same cost and argued "It is difficult to imagine that the Government could not find the money if it were so minded."

Minister Simon Coveney, who was answering questions on behalf of Mr Varadkar, said the Government would consider the issue.

He added: “If it is right to prioritise spending on research, that will be done.”

He said that since 2002 there has been two national strategies on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and there are additional sources of recent data relating to sexual violence.

He said the EU compiled such data across all 28 members states in 2014 and its statistics body, Eurostat is set to conduct a new survey of gender-based violence, which the Central Statistics Office here is to take part in.

Mr Coveney also said: “Existing Garda data on sexual crimes published by the CSO have also been strengthened, thus ensuring we have more robust current data.”

He also said more than €22m of funding is available to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, for tackling domestic and sexual violence, which he said was a €1.5m increase on its funding in 2016.

Ms McDonald argued that none of the studies set out by Mr Coveney are comparable to the SAVI report “in terms of the depth of data produced and the depiction of the entire scope of sexual violence in Ireland.”

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