Safe Ireland has welcomed the government’s decision to establish a new statutory agency with responsibility for Domestic Sexual and Gender Based Violence. Following today’s announcement by the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Safe Ireland is hopeful that the establishment of this new body is indicative of a new paradigm for responding to violence against women in the 21st century.
Speaking in response to the announcement CEO Mary McDermott stated that
“A dedicated agency with responsibility for DSGBV is a major step towards achieving the structural reform necessary to address the continued and growing problem of violence against women. Our hope is that it will have sufficient reach and power to truly effect an integrated cross-departmental response in the short-term, and ultimately eliminate violence against women into the future. To achieve this, it must be adequately resourced to do this work effectively. It will be crucial therefore that the governing legislation which will empower the new agency is sufficiently comprehensive to ensure that a long-term whole-of-government response can be deployed which will address the socio-political drivers of DSGBV and remove all structural impediments to change.”
“Safe Ireland will advocate for a Special Joint Oireachtas Committee on DSGBV to be convened to ensure that the powers and functions of the new agency is sufficiently informed by robust investigation and evidence-based expertise.”
Responding to reservations expressed as to the suitability of the Dept of Justice as lead ministry, with oversight from the Dept of An Taoiseach, Ms McDermott stated
“Safe Ireland in cohort with many other women’s organisations has long advocated for a dedicated ministry for women’s affairs and we continue to support that mission. In the meantime, however, we consider the decision to assign DSGBV to the portfolio of one minister as opposed to two (which has been the position until now) as a progressive move in that direction.”
Traditional frameworks of responding to violence against women have been weighted in favour of measures which hold perpetrators to account. While we continue to support this, the work of Safe Ireland also extends towards a mixed model of prevention, protection, prosecution and policy integration which takes account of all dimensions of DSGBV. This includes fully resourced pathways which facilitate victims and survivors to leave abusive relationships, and which supports the building of strong and skilled community capacity. All of these responses require the amendment of existing, or enactment of new legislation, and the creation of a new agency within the Dept of Justice may expedite the broad range of legislative changes that are necessary to effect meaningful structural change.