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Politicians warned to address provision for domestic violence victims

Women at risk of domestic violence were denied refuge requests 14 times every day in 2014, campaigners have revealed.

The Safe Ireland network said that year had the highest demand for accommodation on record with more than 4,800 unmet pleas for secure shelter.

Sharon O’Halloran, chief executive of Safe Ireland, said the level of unmet pleas for help highlights an abject failure to face up to the reality and consequences of domestic violence and its direct link to homelessness.

“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,” she 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.”

The group, which supports the work of 39 domestic violence agencies including 21 refuges across the country, is trying to make domestic violence an election issue by highlighting the report with candidates.

Among those attending were Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald, Labour’s Anne Ferris, Fianna Fail’s Mary Fitzpatrick, Roderic O’Gorman of the Green Party and Eilis Ryan of the Workers Party.

Safe Ireland warned the politicians that the public is way ahead of them when it comes to understanding domestic violence.

The organisation asked for three initiatives to be adopted in the first 100 days of the next government – an extra 30 million euro across all resources dealing with domestic violence from Garda units to housing provision; a new minister focusing specifically on the issue; and new laws on victims’ rights.

Its figures showed 9,448 women and 3,068 children received direct support from a domestic violence service in 2014 with 1,658 women and 2,309 children living in refuge.

Some 899 children in refuge were aged under four, including 217 babies yet to reach their first birthday, while 1,158 children received other support such as counselling, play therapy, school placement and after school care.

There were also nearly 50,000 helpline support and information calls.

Ms O’Halloran said many women are left with little choice but to return to their abusive homes.

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“Let’s be clear, no woman was left without help and support by our member services,” she 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.”

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