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16 Aug 2022

Women and children's group calls for unified govt approach to tackle domestic violence

Women and children's group calls for unified govt approach to tackle domestic violence

Women and children's group calls for unified govt approach to tackle domestic violence

More must be done to tackle domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence in Ireland, campaigners have demanded in the wake of Ashling Murphy’s murder.

Gardai are still hunting for the killer of Ms Murphy, a 23-year-old teacher who was found dead after going for a run on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore.

The murder has caused widespread anger and shock in Ireland and beyond, with tens of thousands of people attending vigils in recent days.

Mary McDermott, chief executive officer at Safe Ireland, which campaigns for women and children’s safety, said the country does not have a minister with full responsibility for gender-based and domestic violence, saying it is “scattered” across various Government departments. 

She told RTÉ Morning Ireland: “Refuge and support services are under (the department of) children and the rest of the responsibility, which we know requires a whole of Government response, is scattered across the rest of Government departments.

“It needs a whole-level response but at the moment it is fragmented and scattered.

“The Tánaiste (Leo Varadkar) said there is a need for a lead minister.

“We hope it brings all the areas under one ministry to respond in a coherent and systematic and fully resourced way.

“Domestic violence in this country is a large-scale social problem. It is not a matter of poor personal choice. While we welcome all targeted actions that address the individual, if it is not systemically responded to we will fail.

“We think domestic violence is akin to climate change and call for a high-level unit to set out and consider this.”

Over the weekend, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said a new Government strategy to tackle domestic, sexual and gender-based violence will be published by the start of March. It would, she said, take a “zero-tolerance” approach to violence against women.

It comes as Gardai identified a new person of interest – who is believed to be in hospital in the Dublin region receiving treatment – and are waiting to speak to him.

As their investigation continues, Gardai believe the development of DNA profiles will form an integral part of the search for Ms Murphy’s killer.

A complaint from another woman, who said she was followed on the same canal path hours before the murder, is still being investigated. 

Ms Murphy’s funeral will take place tomorrow (January 18) at St Brigid’s Church, Mountbolus, in Co Offaly. 

Unions including the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, and Teachers’ Union Ireland have urged schools and colleges across Ireland to observe a minute’s silence at 11am the same day.

They said in a joint statement: “We are encouraging schools to fall silent to remember a beloved primary school teacher, taken far too soon, and show our solidarity with her friends, family, colleagues and pupils as Ashling is laid to rest.”

Meanwhile, MLAs gathered in front of Parliament Buildings at Stormont in Northern Ireland for a vigil. 

Before the Northern Ireland Assembly resumed business following its recess, politicians from the main parties came together.

First Minister Paul Givan, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood gathered in front of a portrait of Ms Murphy and flowers.

Addressing MLAs at Stormont, Ms O’Neill said: “There are simply no words to convey the cruelty and injustice of what happened to Ashling, nor the heartbreak and sorrow of her loss.

“Our hearts go out to her family and all who loved her.

“Regretfully the truth is violence against women and girls, the threat of violence against women and girls, the fear of violence against women and girls is all too common.

“Domestic, sexual and gender-based violence is an epidemic.”

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