Addressing Minister Frances Fitzgerald on the Domestic Violence Bill:
Sinn Féin has long called for improvements to the legal frameworks in place to support victims of domestic violence, in particular in relation to cohabitants and parents in crisis situations. There are several positive developments in this Bill. I particularly welcome the fact that it allows for a court, when making a safety order or barring order, to prohibit a perpetrator of domestic violence from communicating with the victim electronically.
Sinn Féin will be tabling a number of positive amendments including a provision to allow for a Garda of senior rank to apply for out-of-hours barring orders from an on-call judge. We would also like to see that indirect forms of harassment including posing online of harmful materials in breach of a victims’ privacy be included as grounds for a safety, barring or protection orders.
Indeed Sinn Féin tabled our own legislation on this matter previously and will aim to incorporate some of this into the domestic violence bill. It is our view that stalking should also be included as grounds for applications for safety orders.
I want to thank Safe Ireland, Women’s Aid all those working in Women’s refuges and Rape Crisis Centres throughout the 32 counties, St Vincent De Paul, Amnesty International and the many individuals and organisations I have worked with over the years for their work in campaigning for changes to legislation and indeed for the wonderful work they do with survivors of Domestic Violence. In this context I want to acknowledge the work of Don Hennessey from Cork who has done exceptional work across all of these areas and who for me wholly and completely captures the evil dynamic that exists when perpetrators of domestic set to work on their victims. His books titled ‘The Mind of the Abuser’ and ‘Freeing her Mind’ help to make sense of the question many people ask – Why doesn’t she just leave him. And for women currently experiencing abuse and violence he helps them recognise the power and control games that are being played to destroy their self-esteem.
Above all, today, I want to acknowledge the courage, strength and resilience of the women and children who have experienced domestic violence, those who continue to live with abuse, and those who have managed to leave.
Today, I want us to remember the 209 plus women who have died violently in Ireland since 1996 and I want to remember all those who have died prematurely because of the violence and abuse inflicted on them. I also want to acknowledge all of the adults who have been robbed of a childhood. I want to acknowledge their suffering and that of their families.
Let’s be clear, Domestic Violence is one of the most heinous Crimes that can be committed. It is a crime that most often is repeated day after day and night after night for years and sometimes decades. We often express shock and outrage about one off incidents that inflict violence on a victim – and rightly so. So why then do we turn a blind eye to domestic violence?
Why then do we have an inherent tolerance to sustained attacks on human beings just because the violence occurs behind closed doors or because the violence is inflicted by a perpetrator who is known to the victim. What does that say about us as a society? What does that say about us as legislators.
Finally, but most importantly this legislation must be underpinned with additional resources for front line services. This involves additional funding for refuges, helplines and training. That approximately 5,000 requests for refuge were refused last year due to lack of accommodation and resources is criminal in itself.