Safe Ireland Welcomes Historic Government Amendments to Domestic Violence Bill

Safe Ireland welcomed amendments published by the Government to the Domestic Violence Bill 2017 as an historic breakthrough for women and children living with violence in their homes.

The Government amendments,  recognise for the first time, that coercive control is a criminal offence and, significantly, that violence within an intimate relationship should be viewed as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

A number of other amendments recommended by Safe Ireland have been incorporated also, including establishing statutory guidance for the granting of domestic violence orders. The aim of such an amendment is to increase consistency in decision making on the granting of orders. 

The amendments show the Government’s understanding and recognition that violence in intimate relationships is the most serious breach of trust. If passed, we can, for the first time in this country, move on from minimising violence and abuse in the home as ‘just a domestic. These amendments instead declare that violence within an intimate relationship is the most serious breach of trust between people and is in fact more serious because of that.

Safe Ireland and other NGOs have been advocating for these amendments for over three years since the new DV legislation was first presented.

The Bill was passed by the Seanad in December and is waiting to be resumed in the Dail. Safe Ireland call on all political parties and independents to support the amendments for women and children and to work together to ensure that the Domestic Violence Bill is now passed through the Oireachtas to enactment stage as swiftly as possible.

Safe Ireland publishes a Review of its work for 2015 and 2016

It is with great pleasure that we in SAFE Ireland present our Review for the years 2015 and 2016. This has been a positive and productive time and we have achieved many things.

We have been steadfast at all times in collaborating with our Members throughout the country to ‘centre stage’ women and children’s needs in all that we do together. We are as committed as ever to making Ireland the safest country in the world for women and children. We understand that inequality begins in the home and it must end in the home. We realise that this ambition will take time to manifest and all of us working together over the coming years. But it is possible, we live in a relatively small jurisdiction, a jurisdiction that is less complicated than many. But more than that we have a track record in this country of providing leadership and vision for change, we have led the way many times and particularly in marriage equality achieved in 2015, in the lifetime of this review.

That said, we have work to do and we have changes to make if we want to have an impact on the lives of women and children experiencing domestic violence. We have to find better ways of working at interagency, interdisciplinary levels, we all have a role to play to end domestic violence. We need to be less busy building our agencies, profiling our agencies and really get serious about eradicating domestic violence from our homes and communities. We need to enable a generosity of spirit to grow in our work together, it is not what we do but how we do it together that matters.

In 2015 following an extensive review and consultation process with internal and external stakeholders, the Board and Members of SAFE Ireland agreed a 5-year Strategic Plan Changing Culture and Transforming the Response to Domestic Violence in Ireland 2015-2020 which sets our goal, core vision and key priorities that will underpin our work over the coming years. 2015 marked the start of the delivery of our transformative social change agenda on the issue with the support of The Community Foundation for Ireland who has committed to part-fund the implementation of our Strategic Plan over the next 5 years.

In 2016 with our Members and colleagues throughout the globe SAFE Ireland created the SAFE Ireland Summit, a place where we dared to listen, where we dared to think outside the box, where we posed questions and pushed unwanted boundaries that hemmed us in and kept violence alive. It was a place of vital endeavour, we dared to believe that Ireland can become the safest country in the world and we understood that we needed to change the world, we needed a bigger vision for everybody throughout the world. We will build on this work so that the world can be safer for all of us, we will dare to stand for LOVE and we invite you to join us in this sacred work.

View the SAFE Ireland Annual Review 2015-2016 here (PDF 10Mb)

Two International Experts on Domestic Violence visit Ireland in July

SAFE Ireland invited two International experts on domestic violence and coercive control, Professor Evan Stark and Davina James-Hanman to Ireland this past month to deliver training to professionals who have a role in responding to women and children experiencing domestic violence.

L-R Caitríona Gleeson, Programme & Communications Manager, SAFE Ireland, Davina James-Hanman, Síobhan McKenna, Chair of SAFE Ireland, Prof. Evan Stark and Sharon O’Halloran, CEO SAFE Ireland at the Seminar on Understanding Coercive Control in Croke Park on July 11th

Professor Evan Stark  is a sociologist, forensic social worker, award-winning researcher and the leading global expert on coercive control in the context of domestic violence and abuse. He has advised the English, Welsh and Scottish Governments on their coercive control laws. Davina James-Hanman is an independent Violence Against Women Consultant. She has worked in the field of violence against women for over three decades in a variety of capacities. She has published innumerable articles and three book chapters and advised a number of Government Departments in the UK on domestic violence policy.

Over the course of their three day visit to Ireland, Davina and Evan delivered a Masterclass for Lawyers in the Law Society and a Seminar in Croke Park on: Understanding Coercive Control. They also held a series of briefings and meeting with members of the Oireachtas, Tusla, Cosc, the Victims of Crime Office, the Court Services and An Garda Síochána with the aim of deepening the understanding of coercive control and its effect and impact on victims of domestic violence in Ireland.

Prof. Evan Stark delivering the Masterclass in the Law Society

On Monday, 10th of July SAFE Ireland were delighted to collaborate with Gallagher Shatter Solicitors to deliver a Masterclass for Lawyers on: Understanding Coercive Control with Professor Evan Stark in Law Society, Blackhall Place, Dublin. The Masterclass was a great professional development opportunity for law practitioners in the challenging areas of human rights, family law, criminal law, and child protection relating to domestic violence. Professor Stark spoke to those in attendance about the importance of recognising the spectrum of coercive control and its impact on victims of domestic violence.

Ciara Matthews, Managing Partner, Gallagher Shatter Solicitors introducing Pro. Evan Stark at the Masterclass on Understanding Coercive Control held at the President’s Hall in the Law Society, Blackhall Place, Dublin on the 10th of July.

On Tuesday, 11th of July, SAFE Ireland held a full-day Seminar in Croke Park on: Understanding Coercive Control to over 170 delegates from a wide range of professionals and volunteers working with victims and/or offenders  of domestic violence. In attendance were survivors of violence, staff and volunteers from Domestic Violence Services,  members of An Garda Síochána, staff from Probations Services, Perpetrator Programmes,  Tusla, HSE, legal professionals, feminist campaigners and social and health care professionals from state and NGO service providers and advocacy organisations.

Professor Stark informed the delegates that coercive control is a pattern of sustained emotional and psychological abuse of a partner which seeks to deprive women of their liberty and freedom. He argued that it is this denial of a woman’s right to liberty and freedom which makes domestic violence not only a violation of a woman’s bodily integrity but also her human rights.

He warned the Irish Government that if coercive control was not legislated for in this country, it would be in breach of the Istanbul Convention. He urged those in attendance to delve a little deeper when working with domestic violence, to ask questions and to shift their approach from asking why doesn’t she leave? to what are the mechanisms he is using to make her stay?

Davina James-Hanman speaking at the Croke Park Seminar

In describing the impact coercive control has on women, SAFE Ireland’s Programme & Communications Manager, Caitríona Gleeson said: When we meet women, their worlds are becoming smaller and smaller because the abusive partner is restricting their access to resources, to friends, to movements and timings. Domestic violence she said is made up of a whole range of behaviours, which also include physical abuse and sexual abuse and sexual coercion but it’s much greater than just physical violence and sexual violence which often people understand domestic violence just to be.

Delegates at the Seminar on: Understanding Coercive Control in Croke Park on July 11th

Davina James-Hanman, in her presentation shared with the delegates her experience of carrying out domestic violence homicide reviews in the UK. She spoke of a study which found that intimidating controlling behaviour was present in 92% of domestic violence killings in Britain. Ms. James-Hanman said homicide reviews should be carried out in detail in Ireland.

She outlined to the audience that reports from different agencies could be combined to find out where incidents had not been flagged up as domestic violence even though the victim was killed by a partner. This was, she said, a way Gardai, social workers and lawmakers could bring about change.

L to R: Back Row, Senator Mary Alice Higgins, Sharon O’Halloran, SAFE Ireland, Senator Ivana Bacik. L to R: Front Row, Senator Collette Kelleher, Davina James-Hanman, Prof. Evan Stark, Fiona O’Loughlin T.D. and Caitríona Gleeson, SAFE Ireland

This visit comes at a highly critical time as SAFE Ireland is working towards getting  a specific offence of coercive control to be included in the Domestic Violence Bill 2017. SAFE Ireland were delighted to have the opportunity to meet with Members of the Oireachtas to discuss creating an offence of coercive control in Irish law and for Professor Stark and Ms. James-Hanman to share their learning from the English, Welsh and Scottish experience.

Some media coverage of the visit:

SAFE Ireland acknowledges the support of the Scheme to Support National Organisations 2016-2019 and the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Tusla, Victims of Crime Funding and the Community Foundation for Ireland in resourcing its ongoing work.

      

The Safe Ireland Summit 2016

The most ambitious event on domestic violence ever created in Ireland comes to life.

On the 14th and 15th of November 2016 over 200 people from all over Ireland, America, Norway, Australia, Canada and Hawaii, joined 53 world and homegrown thought leaders in the Mansion House. The reason that the Summit attracted this caliber of speakers and delegates was because of SAFE Ireland’s work towards its vision that Ireland can become the safest country in the world for women and children.

Maria Dempsey, mother of Alicia Brough who was murdered six years ago to the day of the Summit, chose the SAFE Ireland Summit to speak for the first time. She was giving a voice to her daughter and to the many other women “who are not with us” because of domestic violence and homicide. Maria ignited the atmosphere for the two-day Summit that followed.

She encouraged people everywhere to speak out about domestic violence and to take action against all forms of violence, including being a more open and communicative society that can talk about how we feel including when we have murderous thoughts. She also called the media on their reporting of her child’s murder and reminded us at the Summit and in the press interviews she took part in around the Summit of the responsibilities we have in how we choose to talk and write about violence.

Maria’s daughter Alicia was staying with her friend Sarah and her children because Sarah was afraid of her abusive ex-partner, John Geary. John was found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend, his baby daughter Amy, his stepson Reece and Maria’s daughter, Alicia.

After six years I want to give voice to Alicia and so many other women who are not here with us because they were taken, viciously, unjustly, violently.” she said from the SAFE Ireland Summit stage.

We have to create an Ireland where all voices are heard, even those saying things that are difficult to hear,” she continued.  “Where someone can say ‘no, I’m not fine’.  Where, without judgment, someone can say ‘I feel so angry, I feel murderous’.  That we listen to and know what to do with murderous and suicidal words.”

Listen to Maria speak here

SAFE Ireland created this space in the Mansion House, a stage from which speakers, thinkers, advocates, activists, and artists could speak and share ideas, be together with the purpose of action towards a safer world for women and children. In a world where mainstream platforms for social discussion are often censored, or access restricted, it is as important now as it ever has been to create our own spaces. Personal stories were shared with purpose, professional experiences were explained and commitments were made to take what was learned during the Summit out into the world and to challenge the culture we all live in that facilitates domestic violence.

Lynn Rosenthal, the first ever Advisor to the White House on Violence Against Women and Táinaiste Frances Fitzgerald, shared their journeys from the grassroots through to their government positions.

The Táinaiste said that she believed SAFE Ireland’s vision was achievable – that Ireland could be the safest country in the world for women and children.

Lynn Rosenthal told the Summit audience: “We know that you are a country that believes change is possible. You did it when you passed marriage equality… I believe, as Ireland believes, that change is possible.

Hozier performed his song Cherry Wine and told Claire Byrne that activism on this issue  “[is] important now more than ever. On a grassroots basis, the most powerful man on the planet was elected after talking and joking in a bragging context about sexual abuse towards women and was elected still,” said the singer. “I think it’s an uphill struggle.You can listen to Hozier in conversation with Claire Byrne here

Leigh Goodmark, Dr. Nata Duvvurry, Bronwyn Winter, Linda Hamilton Krieger,  and Helen Lowey made sense of the legal, economic and policy issues relating to domestic violence, while Karen Ingala Smith shone a light on the number of women who have been killed by men in the UK, why she decided to count them and why we have to talk about the extent of men’s violence towards women.

picture1Mona Eltahawy, Colm O’Gorman and Ivana Bacik set the stage alight with their energy and activism relaying their personal experiences of disrupting what is political. Olivia O’Leary seemed to get to the crux of one of the major problems in Irish society when she asked, “Why do we always expect the person with the least power in the situation to make the bravest move?” A quote that delegate, artist Lisa Fingleton illustrated so evocatively.

You can listen back to Olivia’s speech here

We spoke boldly about how we could redesign society, how culture could change culture, how patriarchy was harming us all.

As a performer and writer Carlos Andrés Goméz contribution was as evocative as it was powerful. He dedicates himself to dismantling compulsory, patriarchally – determined manhood which impacts so abusively on women, girls, gay and transgendered people as well as on men themselves. Listen to Carlos here

Louise O’Neill spoke of her belief in the power of art to shape the way we see ourselves and transform the world so that the culture becomes one that values women and men equally.

Panti Bliss closed the first day of the summit calling on us to challenge culture’s rigid gender boundaries, so that we are not bound by convention and can dream a future that is about kindness, love and empathy. Listen to Panti here.

Day 2 opened with Dr. Gabor Mate outlining how and why all the major causes of virtually all human dysfunction emanate from the impact of childhood trauma. Dr. Stephanie Holt spoke of how the voice of the child is paramount in the context of domestic violence. Dr. Rhona Mahony suggested the first step to supporting women experiencing domestic violence is us, the bystanders, having this conversation. John Lonergan the former Governer of Mountjoy recalled his experience working with prisoners and described how they too were once innocent babies who became disconnected, poor, alienated adults. Encouragement, love, praise and compassion are what John believes people need.

Marylouise Kelley shared with the audience her personal story of being a victim and survivor of domestic violence. Marylouise later became a domestic violence advocate and today is the Director of the Family Prevention & Services Act (FVPSA) Program which is the primary federal funding dedicated to support shelter and advocacy for victims of domestic violence and their children in the US.

Eve Ensler brought the Summit audience to their feet as they joined the One Billion Rising. One billion – the number of women who will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. The Summit audience rose to dance in defiance of the injustices women suffer, demanding an end at last to violence against women. You can listen back to Eve’s speech here.

Dr. Mary McAuliffe brought us on a journey through history as she recalled the women revolutionaries of the 1916 rising. Inspiring us to remember, recognise and build on their daring work. Dr. Cris Sullivan continued in that vein urging us to be bold in our work. Mark Pollock was inspirational as he spoke of making the impossible possible.

Emma Murphy gave a powerful personal testimony of her experience of domestic violence. She recounted how she used social media to break the silence around her experience of domestic violence to spectacular effect. Victor Rivas Rivers also about his personal experience of domestic violence and how some individuals who were willing to take a stand on his behalf, saved his life.

Simone George highlighted that one in three women in Ireland have experienced domestic violence. And while we heard shocking statistics on the reality of domestic violence in Ireland over the course of the 2 days, Louise O’Neill wrote later in the Irish Examiner that the Summit, “…wasn’t self-pitying or plaintive, although there were heart-rending stories of abuse told; it was a showcase for strength, determination, a ferocious energy crackling through the Mansion House like a live wire.”

Simone called for a more open discussion on the problem adding that, “the home is the last Irish institution to be opened up.
Sharon O’Halloran, CEO of SAFE Ireland, said that Ireland could lead the “social revolution” that is needed to eradicate domestic violence. “Domestic violence and domestic homicide is everyone’s business,” she said.  “We need a social revolution to bring this issue into the open, to address it seriously, to see it and treat it and name it as the barbaric crime that it is. I have faith in my country to lead the way, to be the safest country for women and children.

First, however, we have to address some home truths.  In Ireland we haven’t quite figured out how to talk about the fact that not everyone is born into or lives in a lovely, safe home.  We need to wake up to the unassailable fact and evidence that the most dangerous threat to women’s safety comes from within the home, within their relationships.”

 

Over 4,000 domestic violence victims a year being ignored in housing crisis

New research also indicates that the frequency and severity of violence forcing women to leave their homes could be worse than previously documented

SAFE Ireland warned that homeless figures and needs are being greatly under-estimated because over 4,000 women and children being accommodated on a yearly basis in emergency refuge accommodation are not being counted and recognised as being homeless.

At the recent launch of a new SAFE Ireland report The State We Are In, CEO Sharon O’Halloran stressed that women and children forced to leave violent homes are being caught in the cross-fire of the national housing crisis. She said that 37 services that participated in new housing research as part of The State We Are In are reporting that they have never seen things so bad for women and children.
state-we-are-in-2016-spreads-and-cover image
Download The State We Are In report here (7Mb PDF)
make-it-happen-toolkitDownload Make It Happen here (700kb PDF)
Download INASC report here (3.2Mb PDF)
In 2014, 1,658 individual women and 2,349 children (4,007 in total) were accommodated in emergency refuge accommodation. In addition, 4,831 requests for refuge could not be met because the refuge was full. Refuges remain at capacity levels today. Government figures at the end of February 2016 show that 912 families with 1,881 children were in emergency homeless accommodation but this does not include the majority of those in emergency refuge accommodation.

O’ Halloran said that this situation is all the more distressing because indicative research into women’s interactions with the criminal justice system, also compiled as part of The State We Are In, gives fresh insight into the frequency and severity of violence experienced by women. The interviews with 40 women show that two-thirds of them had experienced physical abuse on at least a weekly basis. For one third of research participants, physical, emotional or psychological abuse was a daily feature of their relationship. Half reported that they had experienced a serious threat to their lives (e.g. attempted strangulation) in the first incident of violence, belying the notion that violence escalates over time. SAFE Ireland stressed that a large-scale study was required to explore these findings more. However, the mixed method tool used in the new study provides rich understanding of the reality of violence, it said.

“This new evidence is indicating that some women and children may be experiencing violence every day of the year,” O’Halloran said. “Yet, when they escape this violence and look for two fundamental rights – access to a safe home and access to a justice system that responds to them seriously – they are being failed abysmally.”

“Domestic violence is simply not on the homeless agenda,” she said. “According to local authority practice, women leaving violent homes are not being considered homeless; they are seen as being out of home, as they have a home, albeit an unsafe, violent one. They are being rendered invisible when it comes to their right to a safe home.”

The new housing research shows that because of external barriers to housing – spiraling rents, low or no housing stock and inadequate or unavailable rent allowance – women are staying in refuge for longer than ever. The knock-on effect is that the needs of thousands of women also looking for emergency accommodation cannot be met because refuges are constantly full.

The emerging bank of research into women’s interactions with all levels of the justice system tells an equally dismal story, O’Halloran continued.

“Perhaps most stark and telling, our most recent legal research tells us that it is highly improbable that a domestic violence case will actually form the basis of a criminal prosecution. Domestic violence is not a crime under Irish law and so it continues to be dealt with – not as a serious offence – but as a lesser matter even though our research tells us that women are being threatened with their lives daily.”

O’Halloran said that while the picture of domestic violence remains grim, there have been welcome developments over the past years, including progressive systems responses from the Gardaí and the Courts Services. She called on all political parties and independents to make domestic violence a priority issue as a critical measure of a better, more caring Ireland.

SAFE Ireland called on the new Government to take decisive action in the first 100 days of its term. It called for the allocation of an additional €30 million annually to address gaps in struggling services from the Gardaí to specialist domestic violence services. It also called for political leadership, with the appointment of a Minister and Department to spearhead a determined response to domestic violence, including the enactment of vital legislation that would define domestic violence as an offence.

SAFE Ireland stressed that three short-term actions could change women’s lives immediately. It called for a waiver to the free legal aid charge for victims of domestic violence, for rent allowance to be granted to domestic violence victims immediately and an end to the local authority “centre of interest” requirement which means that women can only be assessed for housing in the county where they were living. Many women have to leave their locality because of the threat of violence.

SAFE Ireland’s Political Call to Action

Lynn Rosenthal, First White House Advisor on Violence Against Women

Sharon O’ Halloran, CEO, SAFE Ireland

Caitriona Gleeson, Programme and Communications Manager, SAFE Ireland

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Professor Cris Sullivan, Michigan State University

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Dr. Conor Hanly, NUI Galway

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Caroline Counihan BL

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  • 1,658 women and 2,349 children stayed in refuge in 2014.1
  • Nearly 12,500 people in total – 9,448 women with 3,068 children – received support and/or accommodation from a domestic violence service.2
  • 4,831 requests for refuge could not be met because the refuge was full. – that’s 14 unmet requests for refuge every day.3
  • Women and children experiencing domestic violence are not considered to be homeless according to local authority practice.
  • There is no such thing as a typical victim of domestic violence. They range in age, occupation and education levels. They are as likely to be married as not.4
  • Domestic violence is rarely a once-off event, instead tending to be a pattern of ongoing events.5
  • Two thirds of 40 participants in SAFE Ireland qualitative research reported that they experienced physical abuse on at least a weekly basis. For one third of participants, physical and emotional or psychological abuse was a daily feature of their relationship.6
  • Domestic violence does not necessarily begin at a low level and then gradually escalate; participants in SAFE Ireland qualitative research reported that at least one of the indicators of a serious threat to the victim’s life (attempted strangulation, physical abuse while pregnant, threats to kill victim or children) were present in the very first violence incident.7
  • 79% of women never report a serious physical or sexual assault by a male partner to anyone. Only between 8% and 12% of women report the crime they have experienced to a domestic violence service.
1 SAFE Ireland Annual Statistics 2014
2 ibid
3 ibid
4 INASC Improving Needs Assessment and Victims Support in Domestic Violence Related Criminal Proceedings, 2014. This research clearly states that it provides empirical based hypotheses indicating several characteristics of domestic violence in Ireland and the response of the criminal justice system. Because of limitations it does not purport to provide definitive conclusions.
5 ibid
6 ibid
7 ibid

President Michael D. Higgins holds event for MAN UP and HeforShe at Áras an Uachtaráin

Sharon O’Halloran, CEO of SAFE Ireland, said that Ireland can be the safest country in the world for women and children.  To achieve this, however, we have to change culture and attitudes that mean that domestic violence is too often not believed or taken seriously.

She was speaking at a special event hosted at Áras an Uachtaráin by President Michael D. Higgins as a Champion World Leader of the UN Women HeforShe campaign, World.  HeforShe celebrates the positive and powerful role of men in promoting and supporting women’s rights and equality.

The head of the national organisation of 39 domestic violence services said that on average 12,500 women and children look for support for domestic violence services in one year.  However, research also shows that 79% of women who have experienced intimate violence never report the most serious incident to anybody.  Only about 8-12% of women experiencing violence contact a domestic violence service.

10496230_984516831602547_7405553410973283688_oO’Halloran said that it was critical that men stand with women as allies against domestic violence, as an issue that is deeply rooted in inequality.  She told the audience at the Áras that “we need to have the courage to face up to the enormity of domestic violence, to say that it is real and then act to bring visibility and voice like never before in this country.”

“We have to understand that the root of all violence is what happens in the home and home is not an island. It is clearly situated in society and clearly affected by culture,” O’Halloran said.

“We must address our culture and attitudes because they affect the ability and confidence of most women to report violence and seek help,” she continued.  “It is our culture and attitudes that determine how we hear and respond to domestic violence. It is our culture and attitudes that allow domestic violence to continue as a largely undocumented, underreported and unprosecuted crime in Ireland,” she continued.
10497206_984517734935790_2994191345911496759_oSpecial guests at the event included broadcaster Ryan Tubridy, an Ambassador for SAFE Ireland’s MAN UP Campaign, and global star Hozier, whose recently released single Cherry Wine is dedicated to raising consciousness about the complexity of abuse and was part of the campaign #FaceUpToDomesticViolence.  Revenue from the single downloads are being donated to domestic violence services around the world, including SAFE Ireland.

President Higgins was appointed in 2015 as a Champion World Leader of the UN Women HeforShe campaign, which seeks to encourage men – as individuals, role-models and leaders – to support gender equality.  President Higgins and his wife Sabina have both been life-long campaigners for women’s rights and gender equality.  Sabina has supported SAFE Ireland’s MAN UP Campaign, which promotes the positive and powerful role that men can play in ending domestic violence, in challenging abuse and in supporting women and children.

Among the leading national organisations also attending the event were IBEC, the FAI, ICTU, the Union of Students of Ireland and the Defence Forces.

Download the new Cherry Wine Single Here

The President’s Speech:

Dear Friends,

You are all very welcome to Áras an Uachtaráin. Sabina and I are very pleased that you are joining us this morning for what is a very important event to mark UN Women’s HeforShe Campaign and to celebrate the role of men in advancing women’s rights in general, in the fullest sense, and in particular in combating gender based violence.

Earlier this week I participated in a ceremony celebrating the role of women in the Rising of 1916 and in the foundation of our state. That event gave all of us cause to reflect on the experience of women in Ireland over the last 100 years. I spoke of how the hopes and aspirations for an equal Ireland, for women and men, which are so clearly articulated in the 1916 Proclamation were frustrated and were denied for the greater part of the 20th century. The women of 1916 were feminists, many of them of the most radical disposition, but the true Republic for which they fought has still not been achieved, and will not be realised until we have full equality for all our citizens.

 My message to that event on Tuesday was that, as we commemorate the courage and idealism of those revolutionary women from our past, we must be inspired to do everything we can to complete the journey towards the full enjoyment of women’s rights.

 The equal Republic is incomplete, but we do have causes for optimism both in Ireland and at global level. In Ireland, access to education, access to employment, participation and representation in political life, equality of pay – are all areas in which progress has been substantial and where equality can now be considered to be within our grasp.

In this spirit of optimism I accepted, in February 2015, the invitation of Phumzile Mlambo-Ngucka, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women, to become a Champion of the HeforShe campaign. This global campaign is one that has the engagement of men and boys at its core, seeking to bring one half of humanity together in support of the other half of our human family, and engaging institutions and organisations that are in a position to influence change within communities, and particularly those settings where women are most vulnerable to gender inequality and discrimination.

 In taking up this role, along with a number of other Heads of State and Heads of Government, I committed to using the influence of my office to convey a simple but essential message: that men must stand up and show leadership if women’s rights are to be fully achieved.

Throughout our public life, Sabina and I have been involved in many campaigns for equality – in the areas of labour, welfare, housing, education, healthcare and in relation to fertility and private life. Over those many years we have spent working on those issues, it has always been clear to us that women’s rights and equality is a political project in which men should have as great an interest and as onerous a duty as women. All of society loses when you have gender inequality. All of society is flawed if gender violence is allowed to occur, is tolerated, and if an intolerable silence prevails around this grave issue. Then too, no invocation of cultural differences or tradition can ever be accepted as an excuse for gender violence.

  • Ours is a moment of great significance in that, by initiating the HeforShe campaign, the United Nations has provided the focal point for an international campaign aimed at harnessing the efforts of men and women working together for equality. HeforShe thus provides a framework for individuals, institutions, corporations and civil society to direct their efforts at areas identified as ones of priority concern:
  • Education
  • Health
  • Identity
  • Work
  • Politics
  • Violence – in any form.

The HeforShe campaign identifies actions that can be taken by all of us to contribute to change. It presents a unique opportunity to realise the dream of a truly equal world in which the relationships between the genders is one of mutual support, equality, and respect.

 A defining change in how the international community addresses issues of equality can be seen in the way women’s rights are now conceptualised as a universal human rights issue.

This is recognised, not just in the HeforShe campaign, but also in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed in New York last September. Those 17 SGDS, and the 169 targets associated to them, were adopted by the largest gathering of world governments in history. They are universal objectives for all nations, rich and poor, and provide a pathway to addressing complex questions of distribution of wealth and resources over the medium term – distribution within countries as well as between countries.

 We must all rejoice at the fact that gender equality was tackled in New York both as a transversal issue and as a specific Goal – Goal no.5 – which calls on all the nations of the world to, I quote:

“Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”

Within this Goal no.5, there is also a specific target aimed at gender violence, which is phrased as follows:

“eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.”

The SDGs are aimed at the medium term, the aspiration being to end gender-based violence within 15 years. While we must all welcome the fact that women’s rights are recognised as a central question of development throughout the agreed text, we should, however, be animated by an even greater sense of urgency when tackling the issues facing women globally. We must give leadership as citizens of a Republic. We should not have to wait 15 years.

Indeed, given what we know, what we understand about the causes and consequences of such violations of human rights, and given the resources and expertise available to us, as well as the strong public support that exists in Ireland for this work, we can say unambiguously that 15 years is far too long to wait for equality, and that even a day is too long to end gender-based violence in our country or anywhere else for that matter.

That is why I am so pleased that in hosting this event today we also have the opportunity of partnering with SAFE Ireland and their MAN UP campaign, which exemplifies the spirit of HeforShe in calling on men to stand up and play their part in ending gender-based violence

. We are delighted to have with us today not only Sharon O’Halloran as Chief Executive of SAFE Ireland and the members and partners of SAFE Ireland, but also Ryan Tubridy, representing the male champions who have stood up and confronted prejudice, stereotypes and stigma by declaring their commitment to “man up” in the face of gender-based violence. The great importance of HeforShe and MAN UP lies in their recognition that the change we wish for cannot be achieved simply by laws, policies or funding. Social change is necessary as well as a change in consciousness.

One step in achieving that change is the building of an environment where men feel comfortable and empowered to identify themselves as feminists and as champions of women’s rights. In standing up to be counted in this respect and in using your public profiles to convey this message, Ryan Tubridy and others have shown great leadership and courage.

We are also honoured to have male leaders from large national organisations who are willing to show that same leadership and who are willing to advocate the messages of HeforShe and MAN UP among their members. We welcome today Gerry Collins from IBEC, David Joyce from ICTU, John Delaney from FAI, Jack Leahy from USI and Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett from the Defence Forces.

 Agus muid ag dul i mbun feachtais chun athruithe a chur i gcrích tá rud amháin atá níos cumhachtaí ná focail, ná pholasaithe, ná sluáin agus ná póstaeir – is é sin an cheól. D’fhéadfá a rá gur fíoraíodh é seo le linn an toghcháin le hathbheochain an amhráin feachtais!

Finally, when embarking on a campaign for change there is something that is more powerful than words, policies, slogans and posters – and that is music. You might even argue that this was proven by the renaissance of the campaign song as a feature of the recent election! 

It is a great gift to have the power to communicate ideas through the medium of melody and sound and I want to congratulate Andrew Hozier for choosing to lend the power of his musical gift to this important cause. Through his song “Cherry Wine” and his video collaboration with Saoirse Ronan, he is bringing the message of today’s event to a wider audience and it is a great thrill to Sabina and me, and I know to all of you, that he has given so generously of his time to be here this morning and we look forward to hearing him perform later.

As a final word, may I, once again, thank you all for being with us this morning, in this week of International Women’s Day, at a moment of great hope, when there is an unprecedented consensus and momentum internationally to achieve true equality between men and women.

 HeforShe and the MAN UP campaign are such important and valuable tools and platforms made available to us, and I ask all of you here today to avail of these tools and these platforms – Do become a supporter of the HeforShe campaign through the website, and consider the actions that you as an individual or an organisation can implement.

Similarly, consider ways in which you or your organisation can play an active part in SAFE Ireland’s MAN UP campaign.
Is ócáid cheiliúrtha é an lá inniu, lá chun ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar féidearthachtaí agus ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar an chaidreamh idir fhir agus mná, caidreamh atá á mhúnlú acu siúd atá, maraon libh féin, ag leiriú ceannasaíochta.
Today is a day of celebration, celebration of what is possible, and celebration of a new relationship between men and women which is being forged by those, like yourselves, who are showing leadership.

Beir beannacht.

View photo gallery from this event:

Listen to The Irish Times Women’s Podcast which speaks about the Presidents event in Aras an Uachtarin with MAN UP and HeforShe here:

http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/the-women-s-podcast

New Domestic Violence Statistics Show 14 Requests for Accommodation Could Not be Met Every Day

Children Growing Up In Refuge SAFE Ireland tells Politicians

Domestic violence services across the country today revealed that they were unable to meet up to 14 requests every day from women looking for safe accommodation in 2014 – a daily average amounting to nearly 5,000 unmet requests from women over the full year.

This is the highest recording of unmet requests for vital accommodation since statistics were first compiled by SAFE Ireland in 2008. SAFE Ireland is the leading national domestic violence organisation working with 39 frontline members.

Presenting the most recent National Statistics, Sharon O’Halloran, CEO of SAFE Ireland, said that the figure of 4,831 unmet requests highlights more than any other the abject failure to face up to the reality and consequences of domestic violence and in particular the integral connection between domestic violence and homelessness.

nat-stats-2014-spreads-and-cover
Download the National Domestic Violence Service Statistics 2014 report here (5.4Mb PDF)

The Annual Statistics show that 9,448 women and 3,068 children – over 12,500 people in total – received direct support and/or accommodation from a domestic violence service in Ireland in 2014. Domestic violence services across the country also answered nearly 50,000 helpline support and information calls. In total, 1,658 women and 2,309 children were living in refuge in 2014. Of the children who stayed in refuge for a period of time, 899 were aged under-four, including 217 babies under one, and 422 were aged between 10 and 14.

The statistics were launched at #FaceUpToDomesticViolence – SAFE Ireland’s Election 2016 Rally. It was attended by leading politicians including Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Justice and Equality, Mary Lou McDonald TD, Vice President of Sinn Fein, Labour’s Anne Ferris TD, Cllr Mary Fitzpatrick from Fianna Fail, Eamon Ryan, Green Party Leader and Cllr Eilis Ryan, Workers Party.

“We hear stories about children growing up in hotel rooms. But now we are seeing children growing up in refuges – spending their formative years living in emergency accommodation,” O’Halloran said. “We have to face up to domestic violence as a mark of our humanity and as a measure of a society. Otherwise, we will continue to fail women, fail children, and fail generations.”

O’Halloran explained that the growing gap between rent allowance and rent prices, coupled with the dire lack of suitable housing stock means that most women cannot find homes to move on to live safely. Many are trapped in refuge for long periods of time, which means that there is a knock-on squeeze on emergency accommodation for other women looking for help. Many women are left with little choice but to return to their abusive homes.

“Let’s be clear, no woman was left without help and support by our member services,” O’Halloran said. “They work tirelessly to do everything they can to ensure that women are supported to find safety. But they are doing so against ever-tougher conditions and against mounting systemic barriers. Instead of being able to provide options for safety with women, our member organisations are dictated to by restrictions – by what’s not possible rather than what’s possible.”

SAFE Ireland also launched its Election Manifesto at the Rally. O’Halloran said that the public was way ahead of the political world when it came to its understanding of the seriousness of domestic violence. In a Red C poll carried out for SAFE Ireland in December 2015, nearly 90% of people said that domestic violence is an issue all of society should be concerned with. Over 80% – rising to 87% amongst women – said that domestic violence should be prioritised by Government.

SAFE Ireland is calling for commitment, within the first 100 Days of the next Government, to ensure that three actions become a reality for women and children.

  1. Allocate an additional €30 million annually (from 2017) to address immediate gaps across all struggling services, from Garda to housing, and to ensure prevention work.
  2. Appoint a Minister, Department and Cabinet Sub-Committee to spearhead a whole of Government response to domestic violence.
  3. Enact new legislation on domestic violence and victims rights, with a commitment to look at the definition of domestic violence.

“If the next Government commits to these three powerful actions in the first 100 days, it will be telling women and children that, finally, their government, their country and their fellow citizens are prepared to Face Up to Domestic Violence,” O’Halloran concluded.

#FaceUpToDomesticViolence – The Reality in Numbers

  • 9,448 individual women and 3,028 individual children received support and/or accommodation from a domestic violence service.
  • 48,888 helpline support and information calls were received.
  • 1,658 individual women and 2,309 individual children stayed in refuge,
  • 8,451 women received a wide range of face to face supports including advociacy, emotional and practical support, counselling, court accompaniments etc.
  • 1,158 children received non-accommodation direct support including counselling, play therapy, school placement, afterschool etc.
  • 4,831 requests for refuge could not be met because the refuge was full.
  • 899 children living in refuge for a period of time were aged under-four. 217 were babies under one and 422 were aged between 10 and 14. 123 teenagers were aged between 15 and 18.
  • 89% of Irish people believe that domestic violence is an issue for all of society (Red C poll Dec 2015).
  • 82% – rising to 87% amongst women – said that domestic violence should be prioritised by Government (Red C poll Dec 2015).

#FaceUpToDomestic Violence – Election 2016 Rally – February 16

SAFE Ireland is asking all candidates and political parties in General Election 2016 to Face Up to Domestic Violence and make it a defining issue in the new Programme for Government.

Our agreement is useless without action

Facebook-Twitter_ProfilePicIf there is one issue that all political parties in this Election agree on it is the need to address domestic violence. There have been welcome developments in policy, legislation, awareness and recognition of the complexity of domestic violence.

This work must continue. We can strive to make Ireland the safest place for women and children.

Join the Election Rally at 11am in the Radisson Hotel, Golden Lane, Dublin.

First 100 Days

  1. We are calling for leadership and commitment, within the first 100 Days of the next Government to ensure that these three crucial actions become a reality for women and children.
  2. Allocate an additional €30 million annually (from 2017) to address immediate gaps in our struggling services, from the Gardaí to specialist domestic violence services to the provision of safe housing. This will also allow for vital education and prevention work, research, and training to help us face down domestic violence.
  3. Appoint a Minister and Department to spearhead a determined, whole of Government response to the complexity of domestic violence, from health to education to justice. We also need the establishment of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Domestic Violence, already promised.
  4. Enact new legislation on domestic violence and victims rights, with a commitment to look at the definition of domestic violence as a matter of urgency. Heads of these Bills were introduced in 2015 but they have not progressed since.

Powerful Message

SAFE Ireland has a comprehensive strategy to transform the response to domestic violence – to make Ireland the safest place for women and children. These three steps are simply the beginning.

If the next Government commits to these three powerful actions in the first 100 days, it will be sending a very powerful message to thousands of women and children in every city town and village in Ireland. A message they have been waiting to hear for years.

It will be telling them that, finally, their government, their country and their fellow citizens are prepared to Face Up to Domestic Violence.

Download our Manifesto

Take action now with our Toolkit

Hozier & Saoirse Ronan Join Forces to Shine Light on Issue of Domestic Violence

New Video for Cherry Wine To Premiere on 14th February – Valentine’s Day

Single Released 12th February on iTunes To Benefit Domestic Abuse Charities Worldwide including the Irish Charity Safe Ireland.

Acclaimed singer / songwriter Hozier is making his song ‘Cherry Wine’ a clarion call to highlight the issue of domestic violence. The Valentine’s Day premiere of his powerful new video will address the issue head on while Hozier, Columbia Records, Island Records and Sony/ATV Music Publishing will donate their respective proceeds from downloads of this special single to a series of international domestic abuse charity organisations which provide support to victims and survivors of domestic abuse while also engaging in advocacy and community outreach.

Download the Cherry Wine Single at: http://po.st/CherryWine1

The compelling video stars two time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan in a moving portrayal of a woman dealing with a physically abusive relationship. The clip also stars actor Moe Dunford (Vikings, Game Of Thrones) and is directed by Emmy winning Irish director Dearbhla Walsh.

Cherry Wine was written by Hozier from the male perspective of an abuse sufferer. The song’s lyrics offer a unique insight into an abusive relationship, shining a light on the cycle of ‘justification’ often perpetuated in domestic violence incidents; that public health experts say controls the abused, shames the victim, and shifts responsibility for the abuser’s violent behavior.

Speaking of his decision to lead this charity campaign Hozier said, “Domestic violence is an ongoing issue in our society, the statistics of which are shocking and the effects of which damage whole families, communities and span generations. With the song Cherry Wine, I tried to get across the difficulty of coming to terms with and facing up to domestic violence and the dynamic of an abusive relationship. I’m honoured to be joined by Saoirse Ronan, Dearbhla Walsh and Moe Dunford in spreading awareness on this issue.”

Saoirse Ronan added, “I am equally honoured to join Hozier to create awareness for the #FaceUpToDomesticViolence campaign with the release of “Cherry Wine” as a charity single. The song has always been one of my favourite tracks on his album. I hope through the video and song we can shine light on the issue and complexity of domestic abuse and in doing so help those caught up in the cycle of domestic violence”.

Sharon O’Halloran, the CEO of Safe Ireland, the designated Irish charity in this campaign, expressed her thanks to both Hozier and all involved in highlighting this issue in Ireland.

“In the words of French poet Victor Hugo ‘Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.’ On behalf of all of the women and children that our SAFE Ireland members work with, we say thank you to Hozier and all involved in releasing Cherry Wine. The video featuring Saoirse Ronan captures the complexity of domestic violence and gives us insight into the justifications that can keep people trapped in soul destroying violence. It is only when this is exposed that we can really begin to address the control that is at the heart of abusive relationships. Leadership on this issue, like that expressed by Hozier, can help us all to face up to the daily realities of domestic violence so that together we can make Ireland the safest place in the world for women, men and children.”

Safe Ireland is the national social change agency for domestic abuse in Ireland with a particular focus on male violence against women and children. According to a recent Safe Ireland report into domestic violence:

  • 1 in 4 women experience physical and sexual violence from a male partner = 440,000 women living in Ireland
  • 79% of women in Ireland never disclosed serious Physical or Sexual violence by a partner to anyone = 347,000 women living in Ireland
  • 1 in 3 women experience severe psychological violence from a male partner = 580,000 women living in Ireland

*Source: European Union Agency for fundamental Rights (2014). Violence against women: an EU-wide survey. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.