Women’s safety must be a priority in Budget 2024 – MEP Maria Walsh

Calling on the Finance Minister to provide funding for additional domestic abuse refuge centres, MEP Walsh said the women of Ireland must feel safe and protected.

MEP Maria Walsh is appealing to the Minister for Finance to protect vulnerable women all over Ireland by ensuring substantial funding is ring fenced for additional refuge centres and supports across the country. Speaking ahead of next Tuesday’s Budget, the Fine Gael MEP said she has seen the brilliant work being carried out by many wonderful organisations such as Longford Women’s Link, and by the team in Esker House in Athlone, but these groups and facilities are in desperate need of more help from the Government. 

“I visited and met with the teams in Esker House, in Longford Women’s Link, and many others across the region. The work being done is excellent, but they need more funding and support. At present, Ireland does not currently have the space to meet the Istanbul Convention standard on domestic abuse refuges, with nine counties having no refuges at all. I am calling on Minister Michael McGrath to drastically increase funding in this area next week, and to give peace of mind to those who need it most,” said MEP Walsh.

“Centres for women in crisis are absolutely crucial and when these services are not available, the isolation that many women face in these horrible situations is what makes them unwilling victims. Tragically, it is also what makes them stay in these relationships because they feel they have nowhere to go. If women are left with no choice but to travel long distances – and in some cases outside their county – to get to the closest domestic refuge centre, that’s simply not good enough. There is this very real and genuine safety issue here and we absolutely need to do more to protect victims of domestic abuse,” she argued.

Calling for a substantial increase in funding for additional refuge centres all over the country, MEP Walsh said this must be a priority for the Government. “Sadly, more and more women no longer feel safe when they’re out for a walk, or waiting for a bus or a lift home. For many, however, it’s at home where their worst fears become real. We need to step up and protect the women of Ireland, and to provide sufficient safe spaces and services. I am urging the Finance Minister and my colleagues in Government to make this a top priority in Tuesday’s Budget,” she added. 

The death toll of women killed in violent circumstances in 2022 was the highest in 10 years, and according to Garda statistics published towards the end of last year, 52 percent of murders during the previous two years had a domestic violence motivation. The Women’s Aid Annual Impact Report for 2022 detailed 31,229 contacts with its national and regional support services last year. There was a 16 percent increase in contacts compared to the previous year and the highest ever received by the organisation in its almost 50-year history. During these contacts, 33,990 disclosures of domestic abuse were made, including 5,412 reports of abuse of children. @12 women died violently in 2022 and that is 12 too many. In addition to these devastating and needless deaths, huge numbers suffer in silence and according to Women’s Aid, every system for domestic abuse victims and survivors is creaking at the seams. Sadly, there have already been far too many attacks and deaths in 2023 and the women of Ireland deserve better. We need more refuge centres and we need them now,” stressed MEP Walsh.