Mayo call for violence against women to be placed on political radar

Mayo Women’s Support Services today said that it was extremely concerning that candidates and political parties have not, to date, paid any significant attention to the crisis of violence against women in General Election 2020.

Launching #NoMoreExcuses2020, a Manifesto for a Safe Ireland for All, Josephine McGrourty, manager of Mayo’s dedicated domestic violence service, said that it was difficult to understand how such an enormous issue, affecting so many women and children, could continue to be side-lined from mainstream political conversation.

Despite the political inertia, research carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes in 2019 indicates that seven out of 10 people would be influenced in the way they would vote if a politician was to speak out against domestic violence.

In their lifetime, at least one in three women in Ireland will experience abuse by a male partner. Domestic homicides have outpaced gangland murders by almost two to one in the last three years.

In 2018, MWSS provided supports to 178 women and 79 children. Over the year, 29 women and 72 children were accommodated in refuge. However, 51 women and 96 children sought refuge but could not be accommodated because the refuge was full.

However, McGrourty said that she was heartened by the commitments of Mayo candidates who attended the MWSS launch.

Ten general election candidates visited the service and. signed up to support the policies in the manifesto so that they will be priorities in the new Programme for Government.

They included Lisa Chambers (FF), Rose Conway-Walsh (SF), Saoirse McHugh (GP), Michelle Mulherin (FG), Joe Daly (PBP), Kamal Uddin (Lab), Gerry Loftus (Ind), Gráinne de Barra (Ind), Stephen Manning (Ind), and Dáithí O'Fallamhain (IFP). There were apologies from Alan Dillon (FG) and Michael Ring (FG) .

“It’s disappointing and worrying that this issue, which effects so many women and children in our own county, doesn’t seem to have featured as a talking point even as we head closer to the polls,” said McGrourty.

“We continue to ignore this issue at our peril,” she continued.

“A significant root cause of violence in our society is the knock-on effect of the extensive violence that happens in our homes.

“We have seen all political parties commit to addressing endemic social problems like homelessness, the health crisis, and violence in the streets.

“But, nobody is joining the dots, and acknowledging that actually, what we need to do first and foremost is make our homes safe and equal and end the gender-bias that feeds and excuses gender-based violence. The commitments of the Mayo candidates today is encouraging however.”

The manifesto calls for increased funding, capacity and training for the creaking and overloaded services, like MWSS, that respond to women first.

It also highlights the intrinsic link between homelessness and domestic violence. Domestic abuse is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children.

Housing instability is four times more likely for women who have experienced domestic abuse and coercive control compared with women who have not been victimised.

Approximately one in four homeless women cite partner violence as a major contributor to their homelessness.

Five Lifelines – Five Red lines

The manifest outlines five ways in which the lives of women and children experiencing coercive control and domestic abuse can be transformed.

1. Prevent Homelessness: Implement and resource a national action plan to provide immediate and long-term, safe and stable housing for women experiencing abuse.

2. Reform the Justice System: Establish a consistent and high-quality justice system for survivors of domestic abuse by transforming the culture, capacity and accountability of the system. The justice system, as it exists, is not working for women.

3. Prioritise a National Prevention Strategy: Tackle gender inequality and inter-generational trauma by investing in programmes aimed at addressing the cultural and root causes of violence against women.

4. Strengthen the Services and Infrastructure that women and children rely on: Increase funding, capacity and training for the creaking and overloaded services that respond to women first.

5. Prioritise political leadership, investment and oversight. Appoint a Minster and Department. Commit to a multi-annual, inter-departmental financial package. Establish a dedicated and long-term Cabinet Sub-Committee.

* Pictured at the event at Mayo Women’s Support Services are Mayo genera election candidates Grainne De Barra, Senator Michelle Muherin, Senator Rose Conway Walsh, Saoirse McHugh, Stephen Manning, Kamal Udin and Daithi O’Fallamhain. Photo: Alison Laredo