MEP Walsh pledges support to Athlone’s Esker House as progress hinges on securing a new site 

The Midlands-North-West MEP visited the Athlone facility and pledged to back the organisation across all aspects of its work 

Midlands-North-West MEP Maria Walsh has pledged her unwavering support to Athlone’s Esker House Women’s Refuge and Support Services and has vowed to lobby her ministerial colleagues to ensure the organisation gets the support it so deservedly requires. MEP Walsh made the promise during her recent visit to the Athlone facility, where she met with the volunteers and staff and learned of the tremendous work being done by the organisation, and its expansion plans for 2023 and beyond. 

MEP Walsh was joined in Esker House by her local Fine Gael colleague, Councillor John Dolan, and both heard from the team at the centre, who highlighted the challenges they face in providing the only refuge centre in the midlands region. At present, the main focus for Esker House is to secure a site for a new facility in Athlone, and the Fine Gael MEP promised she would do whatever she could to help expedite the process. In terms of the overall work being done by the team, Walsh also vowed to speak with Justice Minister Helen McEntee, to ensure that the Esker House Refuge Centre gets the support and attention it deserves. 

Esker House Women’s Refuge and Support Service in Athlone provides temporary safe accommodation for women and their children, together with support and information services for women experiencing domestic abuse. The centre provides emergency refuge accommodation, a 24-hour helpline, general support and information services, access and referral to counselling services, together with access and referral to other relevant agencies.

During her visit to Esker House, MEP Walsh spoke with the team about the opening of their new office in Athlone Town and the importance of them building and securing funding for a new site, to provide further assistance and encouragement to the many women and children who are in desperate need of support. 

Deirdre Berry, Manager at Esker House, has welcomed MEP Walsh’s promise of support. “Westmeath has been deemed a priority area under the Government’s National Strategy, for additional refuge units to be made available. Positive changes are afloat, but we need local and national Government to prioritise this and to help us to secure a suitable site. We desperately need another refuge in the area and we have a Project Manager waiting in the wings to work on this new facility. Everything hinges on a site though and we are calling on the council to either provide us with a suitable site or to help us in our search,” she said. Continuing, Berry noted that it is vital that there is a community-wide response in developing the new facility. “It is important that we look at the bigger picture here. It is not just about accommodation for women and children. Our vision is to have a community response facility with a refuge. We want a building where we can provide services for children, one-on-one supports, and training and event rooms where we can host cultural or training days. We want the new centre to bring people together. We have big plans but we need a site to turn this dream into a reality,” she added. 

Backing Esker House in its endeavours, MEP Walsh pledged her support and vowed to do whatever she can to help. “It was great to meet Deirdre and the team, and to hear from those on the ground and experience the work being done at Esker House. It gave me a much better understanding of how we can help women, and their families, feel safe in their own homes and communities. I was delighted to get the opportunity to visit and speak about the work that we are doing at a local and European level, and how we can help to support the brilliant efforts being made by the team in Athlone,” she said.