Today, this Government launched an ambitious five-year programme of reform to achieve a society which does not accept domestic, sexual and gender-based violence or the attitudes which underpin it.
This plan sends a clear message that Ireland is an island where gender-based violence will not be tolerated.
The plan is underpinned by four pillars; Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Policy-coordination.
The prevention element of the plan includes an education and awareness campaign, as well as updating planning guidelines to ensure public safety concerns are central to the development of public spaces. The strategy will also allow for the introduction of local safety audits to assess lighting, seating and other factors to make public spaces are safer.
I’m happy to say that since the formation of a JPC sub-committee in Offaly County Council, chaired by Cllr. Mark Hackett, such audits have already recently happened in Tullamore, Edenderry and Birr with great engagement from all stakeholders in the local community. I hope that these audits can act as an example for future ones across the Country.
Under ‘Protection’, the plan commits to progress work to double the number of refuge spaces and improve services and supports for victims.
This includes 98 new refuge spaces including in Portlaoise, Offaly and across the wider Midlands.
I know that Domestic Violence services in Laois and Offaly have been campaigning for many years for refuges and safe home spaces and this plan commits to increasing such spaces.
The plan will also see an increase in the maximum sentence from five years to ten years for assault causing harm – one of the most common charges in cases of domestic abuse. This measure will be included in the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which will be enacted by the end of the year.
Finally, with respect to policy-coordination, the plan calls for the establishment of a statutory agency for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence by January 1st 2024.
This Strategy has seen months of collaborative work between many stakeholders. It is, as a result, ambitious and will go a long way to protect and support all victims of DSGBV.
Read more here;