We are hearing very distressing news of the death of a man who lived in a tent close to Leinster House this morning. I express my condolences to his family and friends. I just wanted to acknowledge the passing of this man, as it is almost six years to the day of Jonathan Corrie's death. The scandal of street homelessness and rough sleeping must be dealt with and it needs to happen soon.
Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and it marks the start of the 16-day campaign against domestic and gender-based violence. It is an annual campaign, as the Taoiseach knows. I and others a stand up in this Chamber year after year and we recite the statistics that attempt to capture the horrific abuse and violence to which so many women and children are subjected. I have no doubt that everyone in the Dáil gets angry when they hear the heartbreaking stories of women who have been battered and emotionally broken by the violence inflicted upon them. The physical scars and bruises are all too apparent signposts of the trauma experienced, often on a daily basis. The mental suffering, the theft of victims' dignity, confidence and sense of safety is less obvious but it frequently runs deeper. The fear cast by domestic violence, by every beating, every insult and every attempt to control and degrade is something that victims can overcome, but the shadow of abuse is something they carry with them for the rest of their lives.
It is time to face up to the fact that we have a real problem with domestic and gender-based violence in Ireland. It is time for the political system and Government to move past whatever unease they have about owning up to this fact. Violence against women and abuse behind closed doors and drawn curtains is at epidemic levels. The truth is that successive Governments have failed women and children who have been caught up in the horror of this abuse and until a Government confronts this problem with the honesty and the determination that it demands, too many of the cries for help from abused women will go unanswered and unheard. The domestic violence support services providers in Ireland do remarkable work, despite the fact that they have been underfunded for decades but while the abused women battled to survive the impact of the violence against them, these service providers have been battling for resources, funding and proper support from Government. I struggle to find words to express my anger about how this issue has been swept under the carpet for years. It is time our problem with domestic and gender-based violence was brought out into the open so that we can finally deliver policies, supports and the funding necessary to tackle it head on.
I welcome that emergency funding is provided to help services meet Covid-19-related costs; I am very glad the Taoiseach responded to that call. This will help with the immediate Covid challenge. However, we must discuss and deal with the chronic lack of refuge places for women who need to escape the violence, the abuse and the coercive control. Between March and June of this year, 1,351 requests for refuge went unmet because the services were full. Nine counties have no refuge provision at all and this is a scandal. We know that incidents of domestic violence and abuse increase over the Christmas period. Victims, their children and the services they rely on will face a very bleak picture in 2021 if the Government does not act. I, therefore, ask the Taoiseach on this day if he will now commit to ensuring the refuge shortages across the state are urgently addressed.