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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 19 Jan 2022

Vol. 1016 No. 4

Gender-based Violence: Motion [Private Members]

I move:

That Dáil Éireann:

acknowledges that:

— domestic, sexual and gender-based violence is a national social problem;

— the majority of violence, abuse and coercive control of women is perpetrated by men;

— over 244 women have died violently since 1996; and

— 99 per cent of suspected offenders of detected sexual violence reported in 2019 were male;

recognises that:

— women are not afraid of their surroundings, they are afraid of violent men;

— everyday sexism, harassment and misogyny remain systemic across Irish society;

— violence, abuse and coercive control of women is often hidden and unreported;

— sex, gender and sexuality education programmes for children and young adults are inadequate;

— in one in five cases of detected sexual violence reported in 2019, both the victim and suspected offender were under 18 when the offence occurred; and

— recorded crime statistics continue to be categorised as statistics "Under Reservation";

commends the work of National Women's Council of Ireland, Safe Ireland, Women's Aid, Rape Crisis Centres and the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland, local domestic violence refuges, and other supports and services in protecting women and their children, and for their enormous contribution to public policy; and

calls on the Government to:

— complete and publish a comprehensive and integrated third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and commit to implement, resource and fund this strategy in full;

— prioritise implementation of the recommendations of the independent Study on Familicide and Domestic Homicide Reviews following its publication;

— implement a national sex and gender-disaggregated database on domestic, sexual, gender-based violence;

— expedite the Sexual Violence Survey which is not due to be completed until 2023; and

— establish a domestic, sexual and gender-based violence policy and service implementation unit within the Department of the Taoiseach.

Sinn Féin has tabled this motion to respond to the epidemic of gender-based, domestic and sexual violence in Ireland. Violence against women, emotional and mental abuse and the ever-growing problem of coercive control are a national and social crisis. The State and successive Governments have a poor record when it comes to support and protections for women who have been subjected to violence and abuse by men. It has been left to community organisations and NGOs to step up, fill the gaps and help vulnerable and traumatised women. Organisations such as Safe Ireland, Women's Aid, the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, rape crisis centres, local refuges and the National Women's Council of Ireland do Trojan work with little support from the State and deserve our recognition and thanks.

This is an incredible situation when we consider the scale of the violence faced by women. Here are some of the facts. Hundreds of women have died violently in Ireland. Many were killed in their own homes. Most were killed by a man known to them. The majority of violence, abuse and coercive control of women is perpetrated by men and 99% of suspected offenders of detected sexual violence reported in 2019 were male. The crisis we have is pervasive, continuous and getting worse. Support organisations such as Women's Aid and Safe Ireland have reported a frightening increase in the numbers reaching out to them for help. In 2020, Women's Aid support workers heard over 30,000 disclosures of domestic violence, including coercive control, while Safe Ireland's submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice stated that nearly 3,500 women and 600 children contacted a domestic violence service for the first time during the first six months of the pandemic.

The culture of everyday sexism, misogyny and violence against women is systemic. We find it right across our society. We believe it is time for everyone elected to the Dáil and the whole Oireachtas to play our part in ending this scourge of gender-based violence in Ireland. A particular and urgent responsibility falls on the Government.

Following the brutal murder of Ashling Murphy last week, there has been a collective outpouring of grief and anger and a demand for real change. It is time and there is now the opportunity for the Government to respond in a way that matches the scale of this crisis and the magnitude of violence and abuse against women and girls.

This means coming up with resourcing and funding for services. The days of the béal bocht and of services existing and surviving on a wing and a prayer must be over. It means the passing of legislation and the delivery of policies with a modern and modernising outlook and a genuine determination to make things better.

The Sinn Féin motion before the House focuses on practical solutions and actions that will make a difference in how the State tackles gender-based violence. There are steps that can be taken immediately to turn the tide of a crisis that is ruining the lives of far too many women and girls right across our communities. Our proposals include the need for the Government to complete and publish the comprehensive and integrated third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and, crucially, to commit to implementing, resourcing and funding that strategy in full.

Policy, legislation, resources and political decision-making relating to gender-based violence are currently scattered across a number of Government Departments. I think everyone now accepts that this fragmented approach has not worked. I note that the Minister for Justice will now be the single senior Minister to take all of these matters forward. That is a welcome move. However, we have also proposed the establishment of a dedicated unit in the Department of the Taoiseach for oversight and co-ordination to ensure the implementation of the national strategy and that all parties to it are held to account. We believe it still remains important that the Taoiseach, the head of the Government of the day, drives this strategy and is accountable for it.

To better inform policy decisions and response strategies, we are also calling for the publication of the sexual violence survey and the implementation of the recommendations in the independent study of familicide and domestic homicide reviews. We have raised these matters, as the Minister knows, on many occasions. This is an urgent matter.

I understand the Government is supporting our motion, and that is to be welcomed. It is important that all of us, as Teachtaí Dála from whichever political party or the Independent benches, stand together. I believe this is an issue on which there is far more to bring us together in common purpose than there is to divide us in disagreement because this is not about political parties or party politics. This is about coming together to send a message that when this Dáil says "Enough is enough", we mean business. It is not a slogan at a time of grief to be cast aside when the time of mourning has past. Women have had enough of that. We have had enough of promises that go nowhere and, all the while, women and girls suffer the awful consequences of this State and too many Governments being found badly wanting. When we say it ends here, the only way that can be made real is by the Government following up with actions and initiatives that will bring an end to this scourge of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Everything else is just talk in the end. This comes down to political will and the Government grasping this imperative to make real change. Of course, that imperative also applies to all of us on the Opposition benches. To borrow a phrase, we need to be in this together.

I welcome that the Taoiseach earlier today accepted my proposal that a meeting of political leaders be convened early next week because I believe the entire political leadership of the Oireachtas needs to commit publicly and vigorously to sustain this matter. We need stamina and persistence on these matters.

The women of Ireland are crying out loudly and clearly. It has been said already but let me repeat that this can be a watershed moment and the challenge for us all is to make sure it is.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion. It is absolutely necessary that we, as women, do so, and I include myself in that. I have played by the rules. I have played by societal rules even when I knew they were not fair and placed a disproportionate burden of responsibility on me, as a woman, because from the time we are young girls, we are conditioned to develop an awareness that young men and boys are not. Think about that. It is very wrong.

We get advice and safety tips that we never ask for. We are told not to wear revealing clothes, to lock our car doors, to always get a taxi but remember to text the licence plate number to a friend, not to exercise with earphones in, not to agitate men and always to pop €20 in our bras on a night out to allow us to get home in the event we are mugged. The only real advice, the only real rule that is going to make a difference is one that states clearly and categorically, "Stop attacking women and girls because it will not be tolerated." As women, we deserve better. As a mother, I refuse to raise my daughters in fear.

I want to finish with an example of the real impact of gender-based violence. I received a message this evening from a woman who told me she went to the doctor today. She said it was okay, that is was difficult but she was glad she went. Once again, the labels of post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, and retraumatisation were given. She was told to stay off work for a minimum of three months. She has been referred for an urgent review, which is to happen soon and she hopes it will be useful. She told me she needs to get through this time and that she needs to get it sorted, once and for all. That woman was attacked in 2004. For 18 years, she has been living with that trauma.

This evening, my thoughts are, in the first instance, with Ashling Murphy's family, friends, pupils and colleagues at the school, and the whole community in Tullamore who have been through an unimaginable heartbreak. The outpouring of grief for Ashling and the tens of thousands of women and girls who have shared their experience of everyday harassment and violence, and the fear of violence, have sent a clear message to us all - enough is enough. We can all see that this is a watershed moment. The causes are deep-rooted and will need serious consideration if things are to change.

Women and girls have the right to be safe on our streets and in their homes, yet too often they are not. We need to review our society. It is not just an Irish problem but Ireland can lead the way. Our education system, health service, justice system and social media all need reform. We need to fundamentally consider the effect of every aspect of society on our attitudes towards women. None of us wants to look back in one or two years' time having heard of another senseless killing and wonder why things did not change. We have a unique momentum which can overcome all obstacles and deliver real change.

Sinn Féin's motion outlines the immediate measures the Government must implement to tackle harassment and violence against women and girls. The third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence is due to be published in approximately six weeks. We need a Government commitment that it will fully implement and fund the strategy. The current pandemic has exposed an epidemic of domestic violence. In Kildare, things are so bad that women and children are being sent to refuges outside the county, even as far away as Drogheda in County Louth. Kildare might be considered lucky because nine counties have no domestic violence shelter at all. That needs to be addressed urgently.

The Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality has recommended that a revised relationships and sexuality curriculum should cover gender power dynamics, consent, and domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Change is needed and failure to address this will cost lives.

Men carrying out violence against women is the reality the world over. In Ireland, it is an issue we need to tackle head on. Women in Ireland experience sexism and harassment in their everyday lives, whether in the gym, on the bus or online. Women face harassment by just being present in public spaces. The vast majority of sexually violent offenders are men and, unfortunately, a lot of the abuse and harassment is not reported. For me, that says something about the lack of confidence women have in the justice system. We fear that we will not be believed or if we are, that the perpetrator will get off with just a slap on his wrist.

The State needs to do more to support women who are victims of gender-based violence. Government needs to fund these services properly. Charities have stepped in where the State failed. That is not good enough. The women of Ireland deserve much better. Safe Ireland stated that in the last four months of 2020, there were more than 800 requests for refuge that it could not meet. For me, that shows a complete disregard for women who are victims of domestic violence and have nowhere else to turn.

The Government needs to give a firm commitment that the upcoming strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence will be implemented in full as well as committing to gathering better data in respect of this area. We need to strive to do much better across all Departments in making our public places safe for the women of Ireland. There is no quick fix but we need to work together and start taking the necessary steps to improve Irish society in the here and now.

Our nation's attention is currently focused on violence against women due to the horrific murder of Ashling Murphy. I know that all our thoughts are with her family and loved ones. Sadly, however, this is only the most recent violent attack against a woman to horrify our nation. We have a long and shameful history regarding the treatment of women and girls in this State. We must be under no illusion that this history has had an impact on the deeply ingrained misogynistic abuse directed towards women. We see it in the way that women and girls were treated in Magdalen laundries; in the way women's healthcare is cast aside; in the way women's bodies, tone, image and behaviour are strictly policed in public discourse; in the way women have been forced to travel to get abortions; in the way our bodily autonomy has been denied to us by this State; in the culture of shame that puts the burden on us to talk about the violence we have experienced in hushed tones; and in the immediate and severe backlash and victim blaming if we dare to speak out.

We know that 90% of sexual assault takes place within relationships and that we do not have adequate services in place to support survivors of domestic abuse. This includes refuge space, but it is broader than that. I have been contacted by women who are trying to get out of their current relationships but there are economic factors which severely restrict their ability to keep themselves and their children safe. It is so difficult for any person to get away from their abuser but for women in poverty, women whose abusers control their finances and women who are isolated socially, it is all the more difficult.

In the past week, I have often thought about Manuela Riedo, who was raped and murdered in Galway. Many aspects of Ashling's case reminded me of that horrible attack. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam dílis. Sine Manuela's murder, 105 women have lost their lives in Ireland. We cannot wait for another woman's murder to tackle the culture of misogyny and put policies in place to counteract it.

I only have a couple of minutes. It is certainly not enough time to speak to the enormity of the problem of violence against women in Ireland. First, I wish to give my sincere condolences to the family of Ashling Murphy and to her partner and friends. Their loss is unimaginable and we are all thinking of them at this very difficult time.

Since Ashling was murdered, we have been hearing an outpouring of anger from women. We know that violence against women and the threat and fear of violence is pervasive in Irish society. It always has been and it affects all women. We have heard that loud and clear. Irish society has reacted to the death of Ashling with revulsion. The calls for change across the country are deafening. This is a decisive moment in Irish society and we must take action. We cannot go back to business as usual after this. Women simply will not accept it this time around.

I acknowledge that the Government is talking about taking steps to deal with this with the political leaders meeting and the role of the office of the Taoiseach in implementing change. That is all welcome. It has to be backed up with action, however. Services need to be properly funded. Rape crisis centres need to be sure that they can answer every single call. We need enough refuge places to ensure that no woman is ever turned away again. Tusla provides just one third of the refuge places that Ireland is obligated to provide under the Istanbul Convention and nine counties have no domestic violence refuge place at all. Practically every Member has raised that point and that speaks volumes in itself.

We need a commitment that the third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence will be fully implemented and properly funded after it is published. Further to this, we need to address wider issues relating to women's safety, family courts, appropriate and safe housing and education for our young people. We need a joined-up approach to bring about real systemic change. This cannot be another case of promising change and not delivering. Women have a right to be safe wherever they are - when they are working, socialising, exercising and in their own homes. I hope that we can all work together in this because it has to happen now.

My colleague, Deputy Conway Walsh, asked earlier that this issue be brought back to the floor of the House every couple of months in order that we can discuss additional changes and measures and get an update on progress. I am hopeful and I am sure the Minister will agree to do that.

It is true that the Ireland of today is a different country from the Ireland of the 1970s. We are more open and willing to confront issues that were previously brushed under the carpet, such as domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, and we are more willing to listen to often unpalatable truths about our society.

As we all know, however, despite seismic shift in attitudes over the past 50 years towards those experiencing domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, those protections, services and supports are needed now as much as they were then. Deep-rooted misogynistic attitudes towards women and towards domestic abuse and sexual crime remain a blight on our society.

As part of the Government plan to tackle domestic, sexual and gender-based violence in all its forms, my Department is leading on the development of the third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. To tackle this epidemic, it is vital that we step up our policy response right across Departments and agencies to ensure that the third strategy is the most ambitious yet.

The senseless murder of Ashling Murphy is yet another example of random violence against women. It has drawn comparisons internationally and from our own past, leading to widespread public shock, anger and, indeed, an outpouring of grief. Fear of harassment and violence should never be normalised and no women should have to think about an ever-present threat as they go about their daily lives. We have heard so much about people's feelings on that throughout the day.

The Government and I are doing everything that we can to ensure that people, particularly women and vulnerable people, feel safe and are safe in our societies, and that Government imposes a zero tolerance policy when we are combating domestic and sexual violence against women and girls. Combating all forms of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence is and will continue to be a priority for this Government. To tackle this epidemic, as I said, it is vital that we step up our responses and that we have a policy of zero tolerance on violence and abuse against women.

I have been working for the past 12 months on the goals and desired outcomes of the third national strategy, which is due to be finalised in the coming months. Through consultations and seminars, the NGO sector has shaped and informed the drafting so far and a final consultation will be taking place in the coming weeks.

Like many others, I cannot thank enough those working in the sector who have contributed to the development of this strategy, but also for the work they do on a day-to-day basis locally. I commend Sinead Smith and all the team in the Meath Women's Aid Refuge & Support Services and all those working across the country and nationally.

Through these consultations, the sector and the victims have identified priority issues to be addressed and provided expert advice on moving to an outcome focused framework. We are also very conscious that the new strategy should incorporate the voice of the child and we have reached out to child advocate groups to ensure that this critical element is included.

The strategy will be accompanied each year by a detailed action plan setting out how each of these aims will be achieved, who will be responsible for them, the timeframe for delivery and, of course, how it will be underpinned by resources. I will begin the final round of consultation soon so that we can publish the strategy and implementation plan as soon as possible.

With regard to this issue and the overall structure, as the Taoiseach announced, we are developing a plan to bring policy responsibility for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and the delivery of domestic violence services together under the Department of Justice.

A detailed plan for how this will work is in preparation and will be announced shortly. There will of course be oversight from the Department of the Taoiseach. This is to ensure that all Departments deliver, including the Department of Justice. The highest quality of supports and services will also be provided. This includes increasing the number of refuge spaces available nationally to ensure that everyone who needs a space will get it. This certainly means making sure that every county has a refuge and that we expand where they already exist. On resourcing, the Taoiseach has been clear and has confirmed that this will be given the priority it requires.

In the context of other initiatives, my Department has been running a six-year, two-part campaign to raise public awareness of sexual harassment, domestic and sexual violence and intimate image abuse in order to bring about a change in long-established societal behaviours and attitudes, as well as to activate bystanders with a view to reducing and preventing this type of behaviour and violence. The implementation plan, Supporting a Victim's Journey, which is the recommendation from the O'Malley report - which, in itself, was a review of the protections for vulnerable witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences - continues to be rolled out. It is introducing important reforms to support and protect vulnerable victims and to ensure that the criminal justice system is more victim-centred and that more women come forward.

To date, a number of key actions have been delivered. I will outline a number of these. We have introduced legislation for preliminary trial hearings and this will be enacted in the coming weeks. The nationwide roll-out of divisional protective service units within An Garda Síochána has been completed. The first cohort of staff of the new sexual offences unit in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions formally took up their roles in April of last year. Work to advance the training for all personnel who come into contact with vulnerable victims is under way within An Garda Síochána, the legal profession and the courts. Funding for NGOs providing courts accompaniment and related information and support services has been increased. A review of grants for organisations supporting victims has been undertaken to try and identify gaps in the service provision right across the country. We have improved the victims charter website, which provides a comprehensive repository of information for victims. The University of Limerick has been commissioned by the Department of Justice to develop the framework for the operation and training of intermediaries. They will soon be engaging with stakeholders to develop this. The purpose of this is to support vulnerable witnesses, including children, as they go through the criminal justice system.

Upon the enactment of the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020, or as we all know it, Coco's Law, my Department launched an awareness-raising campaign. This will highlight the penalties that are applicable if someone is convicted of sharing an intimate image without consent and draw attention to the harm caused the victim whose intimate image is shared. I thank Deputy Howlin, who is in the Chamber, for his work on that with Jackie Fox.

This year, I will also legislate for the specific offences of non-fatal strangulation and stalking. These offences will be called out. Not only will that send a clear message about how seriously they are taken, but it will help us to understand the extent of the commission of these heinous crimes. I will also strengthen the monitoring and reporting conditions for convicted sex offenders and legislate to give effect to all of the legislative changes recommended in the O'Malley review, further supporting victims in practical ways on their journey through the criminal justice system.

I am not going to oppose the motion. I just repeat what I said earlier. In the spirit of this evening, we can all commit to Ashling, we can commit to each other and we will certainly commit to so many other women to make sure that we dedicate ourselves in order that, along what will be very difficult road, we will work in co-operation to demand zero tolerance for violence and for any kind of abuse of women and girls.

The Minister is sharing her time with Deputy Costello.

I thank the Minister for sharing time. She mentioned the two issues, namely, the non-fatal regulation and the specific offence of stalking. I raised these matters during Questions on Promised Legislation this morning. I am glad that the Minister remains committed to driving forward in respect of both of them.

While we are gathered here this evening because of the senseless murder of Ashling Murphy, like previous speakers I make reference to the fact that 244 women died in violent circumstances in recent years. I had wanted to read out all their names in order that people could hear of each and every life lost but I cannot do that in the short time available. That alone tells a story.

The point I want to drive home is that many speakers have talked about how men are responsible for this violence and how they need to be the solution. Men need to do more. The men of Ireland need to do what women have been asking of them for decades, namely, that they do more to keep women safe. That is a fundamental point. There is not just one thing that we can do. There are many interlinking policies and actions that can be introduced and things that we can do on legislative basis, on an individual basis and on a cultural basis to enable us, as men and Deputies, to have an impact in the context of that safety issue.

I wish to use my time to briefly highlight the fact that we need to start talking to young boys at a very early age about issues relating to consent and harassment. We should include this as part of our school curriculum. The Rape Crisis Network of Ireland reported that over a 12-month period, 80% of adolescents in the study it carried out disclosed sexual harassment. Some 63% disclosed that they were subjected to someone making unwelcome sexual comments, jokes or gestures in the school environment. That is just not good enough. Our continued inaction on this is just not good enough. If we are to make the necessary cultural change, we need to begin early. We need to begin by educating people about respect and consent and against harassment. From there, we need to grow and counteract the harm that is being caused and that is being done. Introducing a national policy to combat sexual harassment in secondary schools would be one tangible action that we could take. The fact that I am standing here talking about the education system again reflects that this is a complex, interlinking action that we all need to take responsibility for.

I welcome the motion. I also welcome the debate and the opportunity to contribute to it. Hopefully, I, too, can be part of the solution going forward.

My condolences to Ashling Murphy's family and to all who loved her. She certainly lit a fire in mná na hÉireann, from Derry to Cork and from Galway to Leinster House. To her family, Ashling was just their gorgeous young woman. They wished she had just come home. All of this must be very difficult for the family.

The must be a before-and-after Ireland in the aftermath of what has happened. Every woman has experienced degrees of what happened to Ashling and countless other dead women. We all feel it. We are angry at her murder. We are broken-hearted, but we are furious too. However, we will not be dismissed as man-haters. That term is an insult, and it is a cop-out. We carried ye, we gave birth to ye, we nursed ye, fed ye and cared for ye. The only reason ye are alive is because we love ye. Why are you so afraid of us?

I know that one cannot live and breathe the patriarchy without learning how to survive. We have all had to use appeasement to live through dangerous situations. However, to the women who encourage misogyny, hoping to get some kudos, just stop. The truth is that the misogynists loathe you too. In the beginning, we ate the apple and we tempted the man. Then, we wore the wrong clothes, drank too much, walked or ran alone, were out after dark, before dark and after dark again. That we were out at all, really, meant we were asking for it. We are sick to death of taking the blame. Planning our routes home, locking car doors, pretending we are on the phone, wedging keys between our fingers and texting when we are home safe. We do not want mace and we do not self-defence classes. We do not want hollow words from a system that waits for the candles to burn out and then goes back to normal. This is a normal where women are beaten at home and have their money controlled, their clothes are policed and are murdered. This is a normal that is failing our children. It failed our young Kildare girl, Ana Kriégel.

Deputy McDonald has outlined the provisions of our Private Members' Bill. We want accountability, 999 calls to be answered, safe homes, safe streets and refuges when we need them. We want to be valued for what our feminine qualities bring to the table, because we bring what has been missing from this State. We want respect, rights, sovereignty and to take our equal place in the promised Republic. We will accept no less.

I want to add my voice to the hundreds of thousands of messages of condolences to the loved ones of Ashling Murphy on her tragic death. The outpouring of grief that has followed Ashling's murder has been phenomenal. The spontaneous organisation of vigils across our cities, towns and villages, as well as the huge numbers of men, children but especially women who turned up in sympathy, solidarity and anger was simply amazing. All of us in society, but particularly men, have responsibility to do our part in ending the violence, the threat of violence and the fear of violence that is the hallmark of the lives of every woman and girl.

However, all of us in this House have a greater responsibility to listen. We must listen to those who attended the vigils and demanded that Ashling Murphy's death mark a turning point. We must listen to all those women who came on the airwaves to share their own harrowing and often shocking experiences of humiliation, harassment and attacks endured while going about their daily business. We must listen to those in this House who have bravely told their own stories, including my colleague, Deputy Tully, who outlined her experience of the domestic abuse, which almost cost her her life, in such an honest and powerful way.

Above listening, however, we have a responsibility to act because it is by our actions that we will be judged. The counties in my constituency, Cavan and Monaghan, have no domestic violence refuge accommodation. For years, the Tearmann Domestic Abuse Service has appealed for emergency accommodation provision but its calls have gone unheeded by successive Governments. If this Government and this House are genuine about the words that have been spoken in the Chamber tonight, then never again will Tearmann Domestic Abuse Service have to make that appeal. The evidence of whether we have listened will be in the delivery of refuge accommodation in every county and the implementation of the dozens of other immediate actions that have been rightly demanded over the past week. I commend this motion to the House.

The murder of Ashling Murphy has traumatised people across the length and breadth of the country. Our hearts go out to her and her family, and all the other women who have died over the years at the hands of men. We have discussed this for the past week or so and it has come to us all that it is about behaviour and attitude. We cannot legislate for attitude but we can legislate for some things. We can legislate for proper education in order that people know right from wrong from a very early age. We can legislate to tighten sentencing guidelines in respect of violence against women. We can legislate for domestic homicide and femicide reviews, similar to what we have in the North. We cannot leave these tragedies without learning from them and making sure we provide for them in the future.

We can also ensure that there is support in place for victims to prosecute in order that they have the courage to come forward and not be afraid. The past experiences of others have been so negative that many do not come forward. We must ensure aftercare, support and everything else is in place so they are able to do all that. There are holes in the system, such as in the context of 999 calls and the domestic refuges that are missing in so many places throughout the country. There are so many things we can do in this House to change things and make them better. We must do them. Many other things have also been mentioned, and everyone is aware that we need to change the attitudes and the behaviours of so many people around the country.

In the past week I have been thinking about something that happened to me about 30 years ago. I and another young man were going through a small town in rural Ireland and went into a chip shop. After we ordered the few chips, a group of young men came in the door. There were two young women behind the counter and these men made very inappropriate remarks towards the young women. There was an elderly man sitting there. This went on for a while and we were thinking it was a bit funny but the man got up and laid into them. He said, "Who the effing hell do you think you are abusing these two girls? This isn't right. Get out of here." He roared abuse at them and they went out the door. About ten minutes later one of them came in very sheepishly, collected his few things and left again. There are those who say that not every man is bad. Well, every man has the opportunity to be like that old man. I was not like that man that night, to my shame, and many of us in such circumstances would not be, but we have the opportunity to be. We have the opportunity to stand up and be counted when things like that happen. That is the big lesson society needs to take from this.

Turning to the motion, we have the opportunity to bring in legislation and regulations to make things better and to supply the resources in order to ensure that the funds are there to provide for all these situations. Women's refuges and people who are trying to help victims of domestic violence should not be spending their time trying to run fundraisers. This is a service for the community, the people and every citizen of this State, and the State has to provide it.

I express my deepest condolences to the family, partner and friends of Ashling Murphy, and those in the wider community who have been devastated by her brutal murder. Listening to the public debate over the past number of days, one comment has stuck in my mind. It has been said that the issue here is not, in the first instance, the safety of women but the violence of men. Every single day, women face abuse, harassment, sexual and physical violence and, in far too many instances, death, because they are women. All women at some point in their lives are forced to live this reality and it is men who perpetrate this violence. Toxic masculinity and institutional sexism are the root cause of the problem. That is not just among individual men but throughout the very culture and institutions of our society, including at home, in work, on the sports field, in schools, in the courts and even sometimes in this Chamber. We live in a society that simply refuses to treat women fully as equals.

I agree with colleagues from both sides of the House that every single man has a role to play in tackling this issue. It is not acceptable to stay silent and look the other way. We must all play a part in bringing this unacceptable reality to an end. Listening to the testimony of women has driven home for me that it is time for men to stand up and act - all men. We must call out everyday sexism, educate our sons, our friends and our colleagues, challenge institutional gender discrimination and, crucially, fund support services for those experiencing gender-based violence. Most important of all, we need to ensure our streets, homes, workplaces and places of leisure and entertainment are safe for all women. It is time for us men to listen to women, to act and to put an end to toxic masculinity. Those of us with the incredible privilege of being in this Chamber must do everything we can through legislation, policy and budgets to provide all the necessary supports to bring this appalling reality to an end.

This is clearly a timely and important motion for the House to debate and for every Member to have an opportunity to comment on. I commend Sinn Féin on using its Private Members' time to give us all a platform to speak tonight. On rare occasions in our nation's history, an event happens that stops people in their tracks. One such occasion clearly happened on Wednesday last in County Offaly. The murder of Ashling Murphy jolted every one of us out of whatever we were doing at the moment we heard about it. It demanded our immediate attention and focus. Like everybody else who has spoken, I send my deepest condolences to Ashling's family, her partner, her work colleagues, her friends, her pupils and all who have been so deeply affected by her savage murder.

The murder investigation will continue to take its course. Enormous efforts are being made by An Garda Síochána to investigate this most awful of crimes and to bring those responsible to justice. We will allow the Garda to do its job but the profound question being posed to every citizen, everyone in this State and every one of us relates to how we respond. It is not just about how we respond to this specific dreadful murder and the robbing of a life with such promise and potential, but, more immediately, to the culture that has tolerated sexual and gender-based violence and the backdrop of sexism and misogyny that has supported it through the years. I have contributed to many of the debates on societal issues in this House over the years. In that context, changes in the law or the establishment of new agencies have been important steps. The most important step in dealing with all these fundamental societal problems, namely, a change in culture, is the most difficult to achieve.

As a nation, and the Minister alluded to it in her contribution, we are on a difficult journey from the establishment of this State, the centenary of which we are celebrating, where women were chattels; subservient; required to leave the Civil Service on marriage; incarcerated in Magdalen laundries; subjected to symphysiotomy; denied their basic human and sexual rights; and, most oppressive of all, made silent in their suffering. All of us have heard down the years, in our individual case work, the individual horrible tales of ruined lives oppressed into silence.

We know that we are on this long journey and, as the Minister indicated, we have made considerable progress from those darkest of days. However, we also know we have a long way to go. The challenge now is for us to commit to the creation of a society where all women feel and are safe and where true equality can be achieved.

The steps and proposals set out in this motion are an important start. The work programme of the committee on gender equality, which will be chaired by my colleague, Deputy Bacik, will also be of huge importance. The specific measures set out in the motion include a national strategy; an implementation programme specifically set out; a clear and adequate stream of resourcing in terms of money, buildings and personnel; implementation of the recommendations of the study on familicide and domestic homicide; a proper national database on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence; early completion of the sexual violence survey currently under way; and the establishment of a specific unit within the Department of the Taoiseach.

I welcome the indication from An Taoiseach that he would convene a meeting of party leaders to discuss these things and I know all party leaders in the House will involve themselves in that, but there is a benefit to a specific unit in the Taoiseach's Department. In major crises, having meetings formally chaired by the Taoiseach that bring progress reports is considerably important in making sure timelines are achieved and work is actually done.

These are important and impactive measures that should be supported and must be acted upon but the mood of the nation demands more. For once, each of us citizens, in which I include myself and everybody else, is called on to examine our individual actions, attitude, language and above all, our individual behaviour, to make a public commitment never to tolerate and certainly never to perpetrate an act of violence, either by word or deed, against a woman and call out sexism and misogyny when we see it and not to walk away.

I listened to the debate earlier where many women Members made powerful personal testimonies about their own experiences and we have heard some further ones tonight. These are enormously impactive and are things that people have internalised. Politicians and political parties bear a specific responsibility in this regard. We must look to ourselves and our behaviour to ensure women are safe and welcome in our political system and that anyone we endorse to stand for public office, in our parties' names or as Independents, subscribes to these basic norms of behaviour and practice. This person must practice these norms, if he or she is to be supported by all our political parties.

Institutions in this State have in the past refused to address abuses in our midst. Let us now make sure that is ended. Let us all, from this moment on, refuse to look the other way. I said that cultural change is the most difficult to bring about and so it is, but this change is happening all the time too. Macho culture and laddism are learned; they are innate. They are observed behaviour. It can and must be changed.

Maleness should not be interchangeable with aggression or defined by belligerence. Most men want a different definition of "manhood". Let us all now set about creating that new definition and, in doing so, changing that culture I talked about, in order that it will be possible for all women and girls to take a run without being fearful or in terror.

I thank Sinn Féin for enabling this further discussion of gender-based violence. In recent weeks, we have seen the acknowledgement that domestic, sexual and gender-based violence is a national social problem. The tragic killing of Ashling Murphy and the visceral response from every community, city, town, village and even townland, obliges us to respond swiftly, meaningfully and tangibly. Violence against women is a perpetual pandemic and one that never recedes or fades away. It has always been with us.

In this discussion and the statements earlier, we have, rightly, referred to the culture that permits and even encourages violence, abuse and harassment of girls and women. We have highlighted the role that men and boys can play as individuals and the solidarity women provide to each other. Now, it is our turn, as legislators, to respond and not just to give speeches, but to ensure substantial and effective policies. Interventions must be early and effective and penalties for perpetrators must be robust and effective. In the numerous times I have raised this issue, I have highlighted three areas of immediate action that the Government should have taken long ago. I mentioned these earlier, but they are worth mentioning again and again.

The first is domestic violence. Throughout the pandemic we have seen significant increases in people fleeing domestic violence. National support providers and those such as the West Cork Women Against Violence Project have seen clear increases in the numbers of calls. There is a pressing need for more refuge spaces. The Istanbul Convention standard, as we know, is one refuge space per 10,000 people and in Ireland, we provide one refuge space per 10,000 women, leaving us with 50% or half the recommended bare minimum, including very little infrastructure for male victims. These refuge spaces are needed now.

The other point on domestic violence is the importance of having a dedicated Minister or the Department of the Taoiseach to oversee this. Campaigners have repeatedly called for a dedicated Minister with reach across all of the Departments and agencies, with which a survivor may interact, and a Cabinet standing committee. Victims and survivors of domestic violence have to interact with local housing offices, social welfare officers, doctors, gardaí and social workers. We know it is a complex matter that needs a co-ordinated response and people often need training. We need multidisciplinary teams and somebody overseeing all of these services that are able to interact with those needs.

Second, we need a drastic overhaul of how our justice system understands and responds to sexual assaults and violence. The detection rates for sexual offences were 10% for 2020. There is significant under-reporting of sexual violence. In 2019, more than 14,000 contacts were received by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre's national 24-hour helpline. However, only 3,307 offences were reported to gardaí in the same year. Only a small percentage of rapes and sexual assaults were reported and only 10% involved a perpetrator being charged or cautioned. There must be reforms in how policing and the courts system engage with victims. The hostile treatment of victims has to end.

The Realities of Rape Trials in Ireland, a report from Dr. Susan Leahy of the University of Limerick, in conjunction with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, outlines the experience of victims or survivors, and has clear recommendations. Delays in the trial process are a major source of concern which have a significant impact on the victims' recovery and their personal and professional lives. General understandings of consent are still poor and biases, stereotypes and assumptions still influence juries.

The report has 18 recommendations including making available free legal advice and information for anyone reporting or considering reporting any type of sexual offence and providing guidance for juries on consent and to address rape myths. There is a need for immediate changes to our justice system to make it truly victim-centred and to support and encourage girls and women as well as boys and men to report all forms of sexual assault and violence.

Third, there is an urgent need for education on consent, sexual violence, coercion and other types of assault, including online crimes. The Government delayed the progress of the Social Democrats Bill ensuring a standardised and evidence-based approach to relationship and sex education. The need for proper education on healthy relationships and understanding of sex is even more important than ever. NUIG academic Elaine Healy Byrnes, who has written a PhD on consent, is calling for the relationships and sexuality education curriculum to be brought into the 21st century.

I am calling on the Government to overturn its decision to delay my party's Bill. I have raised all of these issues before and I will continue to raise them until we get the action that women and girls deserve.

First, there are no words that can make this okay for Ashling Murphy and those who knew and loved her. I express, once again, my party's sympathies and solidarity with her family and all who knew and loved Ashling. I hope that our collective outpouring of grief and anger as a nation following her killing provides some modicum of solace to them in the horrendously difficult days, months and time ahead.

For women all over Ireland, I hear how frustrating and heartbreaking it is to have the same conversations over and over again and yet see little progress when it comes to ending violence against women. When it comes to political leadership, this Dáil Chamber has failed them for decades. We have had broken promises and abandoned strategies, flashy signs held up to the Istanbul Convention followed by an abject failure to increase refuge spaces. It is has been said time and time again today that we still only have one third of the recommended refuge spaces and nine counties do not have any refuge at all.

Today, we must clearly say that politicians will stand up and provide the top-down political leadership required to create a zero-tolerance culture to end men's violence against women because too many women are living in fear in their homes and in our communities. Too many women are being killed by men.

The safety tips that women so unhelpfully receive include: do not go out after dark, do not jog with earphones in and make it legal to carry mace. None of this makes a difference because women are not the problem and while society obsesses about the movements and behaviour of women, we allow the behaviour and acts of perpetrators to go unremarked upon and, too often, unpunished.

To end men's violence against women, we must accept that the perpetrators of gender-based violence are socialised by the sexism and masculinity that typifies our everyday relations and, in turn, institutionalises sexism and culture. It is crucial to understand that while not all men commit violence, it is usually always a man who is the perpetrator.

Men's violence against women operates on a spectrum. It starts with what may seem like harmless banter with sexist jokes and it ends with women afraid and hurt in relationships, with random attacks and harassment of women in the street, and with women being killed.

Violence against women is not an issue that will go away without a concerted focus being put into the protection of women, prosecution of perpetrators and, of course, prevention of violence in the first place. Much more needs to be done by the State to ensure that women and their children are safe in Ireland.

We need leadership at the top level. I want to reference some of that. We talked about the issue of having one Department with responsibility for ending men's violence against women and one Minister responsible sitting around the Cabinet table. I was thinking about some of the Cabinet Ministries as others were speaking and about where there is an overlap. I am talking about some of the issues that have arisen and have been raised with Deputies across this Chamber over the past number of years. Even if you throw a stick in the air and it comes down, when you think about arts, for example, we have had the Waking the Feminists movement. In the area of defence, we have seen the Women of Honour group stand up and hold to account those who treated them most horrendously wrong. In transport, who among us here did not feel sick when we watched last year a young women getting onto the DART and having a kick aimed at her head by a group of young men? In social protection, for decades motherhood has become the basis of a woman's poverty - a form of institutional violence that should be intolerable in a 21st century republic. In the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, we had a debate only before this on the legacy of mother and baby homes. We see the horrendous injustice of the State and start to see it replicated elsewhere. That continues today in direct provision.

Education is somewhere where we can intervene with young men very early on. That starts with the means by which we teach them. A couple of months ago, my party brought forward the Education (Health, Relationships and Sex Education) Bill 2021. We hope this legislation will make a difference in how we teach children about how they interact in relation to consent and confronting the issue of toxic masculinity from a very early age. It was lamentable that the Bill was put back, although People Before Profit had a Bill several years ago that was similar. These are issues that we can address immediately and we can get ahead of this.

There are other issues. We talked about leadership at the top level. I also want to talk about the role of local authorities. My party rightly referenced the Istanbul Convention, but there was also a UN safer cities for woman and young girls initiative that placed a responsibility on local authorities to improve public infrastructure to make cities and towns safer for women and young girls as they interact with them. That was about confronting dereliction, looking at street lighting and having public awareness campaigns on public transport, etc. That all needs to be funded. That report is there from 2017, I believe, and all across the country local authorities still have done nothing to address these issues. If we are to have a concerted effort, everybody in a position of responsibility and leadership in this country needs to ask what we can do better and commit to doing. That starts with ourselves as men, and that has been touched on, quite rightly, across the Chamber. There is a multitude of things that we can do quickly, and should do.

I call Deputy Paul Murphy, who is sharing with Deputies Gino Kenny and Barry.

I thank Sinn Féin for bringing forward this motion.

There has been much talk about watershed moments and I agree that this moment has the potential to be a watershed moment. It can and must be a watershed moment. What struck me last week, attending the vigil outside the Dáil, is that often you go to large assemblies that are powerful partly because people are shouting and making noise, but what was so powerful about the vigil last week was the silence. There was a profound, long silence as people flooded up. There must have been 10,000 people in front of the Dáil on an evening after work. It was a silence which was pregnant with, obviously, a deep sorrow for Ashling Murphy and for the 244 women who have been killed by men since 1996, with compassion for Ashling's family, friends and wider community, but also with anger at a society that perpetuates the sexism and misogyny which allows this sort of violence by men against women to persist and continue over and over. The same thing struck me in Tallaght later that evening, and it was replicated across the country by tens of thousands of people who really have the potential to force a change on this issue. The bottom line is that it is past time to recognise that violence against women - as it is often referred to - is perpetuated by men, and that it is men and the unequal economic and social structures and power dynamics of capitalism that perpetuate male dominance over women. This will have to change if we are to end the scourge of male violence against women.

I will focus in my remaining time on one aspect, which is the question of objective sex education. If we cannot start by teaching children in an age-appropriate way at primary and secondary school basic objective sex education in a factual, consent-based and focused LGBTQ+ positive manner, we really are not going anywhere. If we are ever to have a chance of changing the misogynistic and sexist attitudes that perpetuate male violence, we need to have objective sex education. The Bill, proposed by Solidarity People Before Profit four years ago, was passed on Second Stage and since then it has languished in the Bermuda triangle between Second Stage and Committee Stage. Since then, the Catholic bishops have come out.

They have come out with a new syllabus saying that the church's teaching on marriage between a man and a woman cannot be omitted when discussing LGBT issues. The then Minister, Deputy McHugh, said the ethos of the school is central to any curriculum. Earlier, the Taoiseach responded very positively to Deputy Bríd Smith's question, which is welcome, saying that we need to deal with that, but then he suggested the main issue was to check the training of teachers. The central issue is the ethos. If we do not challenge the fact that the ethos can stand in the way of the delivery of objective sex education, we could have the best curriculum in the world and the best training of teachers in the world but we could not guarantee that people will get the objective sex education that they need to get.

We will be supporting the Sinn Féin motion. I want to send my solidarity to the Murphy family at this terrible time. They probably cannot comprehend that Ashling will no longer be in their presence. None of us this week should have known about Ashling Murphy. In the past week, her life brought every village and town together like never before in a spontaneous call of solidarity in song, in deep shock but also terrible silence. Many of us tried to understand why this has happened, why in daylight, such a darkness should befall a young woman going for a run. To understand and comprehend, we must look at the deep levels of sexism that exist in society, the crass nature of objectifying women and then some men subjecting them to abhorrent abuse, both mental and physical. The toxic nature of the promotion of sexual violence by pornographic websites is both corrosive and very dangerous. It is extremely insidious, in particular for young men who watch the horrible content that is online.

This must be a turning point and I think the Minister will make the call to make this the turning point. Women must feel safe, not only in their home but in their workplace, their street and in their town. They have a right to feel very safe but this can only happen by all of us challenging the terrible sexism that exists in modern society. There is probably not one solution. We can do everything on a personal level, but there is no getting away from the fact that there exists an epidemic of sexism via the Internet and other means that demeans women and then men act out terrible violence against women. That must stop.

A society which experiences 244 femicides in 25 years is a sick society that needs radical change. What kind of change? We need programmes in our schools that educate against sexism, misogyny and male violence against women. We need to teach consent. We need schools to bring young people of all genders together. We need an end to single-sex education. We need an end to religious control of schools. We need to separate church and State. We need to end sexism in the legal system. Victim-blaming and rape myths have no place in courtrooms. A public inquiry needs to be organised on the 999 call scandal.

We need funding for change. We should triple the funds to women's refuges, domestic violence services and other front-line services. We must massively increase funding for mental health services and build public housing on such a scale that a new home can be offered to every victim of violence currently living in a home in which they are trapped. We must not let finance stand in the way. The wealth of Ireland's nine billionaires has increased by 58% since the start of the pandemic to nearly €50 billion. A mere 3% tax on wealth above €4 million would raise €8 billion in new revenue for Irish society. It is time to tax the rich.

Last but not least: a cactus grows in the desert and a rose blooms in good soil. What is the societal soil in which sexism and misogyny flourish? I put it to the House that these weeds grow best in a society that is based on inequality and oppression. If we want to have a serious debate about sexism, misogyny and gender-based violence, we must have a serious debate about the patriarchal system of capitalism. I look forward to that debate in the weeks and months ahead.

Deputy Tóibín is sharing with Deputy Naughten.

Ba mhaith liom mo fíor-chomhbhrón a thabhairt do chlann agus cairde Ashling Murphy. Is tragóid uafásach í seo amach agus amach. Ba bean bhríomhar í le buanna iontacha sa chultúr, i gceol agus in oideachas agus is caill ollmhór í seo dá clann, dá pobal, dá scoil agus don tír. Ní dhéanfaimid dearmad uirthi go deo sa tír seo.

Ashling's death is a catastrophe, a disaster for her family. My heart goes out to her family and friends over the coming days as they try to come to terms with what has happened. I also want to extend my sincere condolences to the family of Michael Tormey, a father of three, who was shot dead in the garden of his home in Ballyfermot in the early hours of 9 January. I commend the Garda on charging a suspect in that case today.

Ashling's death has forced this country to have a long overdue conversation about gender-based violence. As elected representatives in this Dáil, we have a responsibility today to move beyond rhetoric and to take action against the causes of violence and to build a culture so that every girl and woman in this country will feel safe. Ireland is not as safe as it once was. If we are honest with ourselves, society has become harsher, more dangerous and more violent. Figures obtained by my office show there has been a shocking increase in sexual violence in the past five years alone. In 2016, the CSO recorded 2,520 sexual offences. That increased to 3,340 by 2019. Figures published by the CSO on sexual assaults show that more than one in five, or 20.8%, of those assaults were committed by boys under the age of 18. It is startling what is happening to young boys and men in this country at the moment. We cannot get away from the fact that there has been a significant change in their lives.

Access to hardcore pornography by young children contributes to violence against women. We witnessed the shocking murder of Ana Kriégel in recent years. That case highlighted the fact that access to violent pornography especially plays a role in the attitudes of young boys to women. Over Christmas I was talking to a parent who told me that she had checked the family tablet and a ten-year old child in the family had been googling Santa Claus one minute and hardcore pornography the next minute. This is what is happening in this country in 2022. Countries such as Iceland, France and Italy are moving to ban the provision of hardcore porn to children. We in Aontú tabled a Bill that would ban hardcore pornography from being provided to children. Right now, that Bill languishes, and is awaiting Second Stage. When it was before the Dáil on First Stage, we had platitudes, shrugs and people saying it was shocking, but there has been no move at all by the Government to get to grips with this issue.

I also wish to mention domestic violence. A number of documents released to my office have shown that in the first four months of lockdown, the number of people contacting the Rape Crisis Network Ireland helpline increased by 15%, while appointments increased by 11%. Barnardos also wrote to the Minister saying that it had examined its intensive family support to early years services.

Its snapshot look at 1,250 cases presenting in one week in September 2020. It found that, of these families, 44% were experiencing difficulties related to mental health, one in four were experiencing domestic violence in the home and 21% were experiencing issues with regard to addiction. All of these issues are feeding into violence against women in the State. Around the same time, Parentline contacted the Minister to say it was experiencing a large increase in the number of parents calling its helpline, with a massive 300% increase in requests for access to the non-violent resistance programme. According to Women's Aid, 244 women have died violently in Ireland since 1996. We know the number of female murder victims as a percentage of the annual total cases is on the rise and rose sharply last year.

In my and the Minister’s county, I have been calling for seven years for a rape crisis outreach clinic to be opened. Right now, if a person is a victim of rape or sexual abuse in County Meath, they must travel to Dundalk, Tullamore or Dublin. If they do not have transport, that service is not accessible to them. We need to make sure we have investment in the locations where victims and survivors live so they can access those services. I reach out to the Minister today to see if she can do anything to help with funding to provide for this in our county of Meath.

I see that I have run out of time. I will leave it at that and hand over to my colleague.

The whole country was stunned and shaken by the death of Ashling Murphy. I attended the vigil for Ashling at the gates of Leinster House with many members of the Oireachtas last Friday. I listened to the call by speakers for the attack on a young woman, just going for a jog on a bright winter afternoon in a rural town, to be a watershed moment in terms of all forms of violence against women. I know the death of Ashling also revisited trauma on many women across this country, as well as on the families of women who died in tragic circumstances in the past.

I welcome the comments by the Minister for Justice and the Government and the commitment to publish the national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence this March but the reality is that the issues raised over the last week will not be sorted out by any single strategy. If Ashling’s death is to be truly a watershed moment, then the measures that are taken must be far-reaching and touch every sinew of our society.

So much of this comes down to attitude. The change has to start with us, as men. Men need to be role models and call out unacceptable attitudes and behaviour towards women, be it our neighbours, our friends or, indeed, our family, and whether it be misogynistic behaviour, online abuse or disrespectful and degrading comments, wherever it happens. We should make a start right here in politics. Recent research by Dr. Ian Richardson found that while there was no gender divide in the amount of online abuse aimed at Deputies, there was a significantly higher level of abuse messages focused on female councillors and Senators than on their male counterparts, and much of this abuse was generated by party supporters.

We all know a mother, a daughter or a sister who has tolerated a certain level of fear when it comes to living in our society. Some walk with their car keys in their hands, ready to be used as a defensive weapon. Others change into their runners when they are going for a walk so they can run away. It is time for this to stop. We also need to review our environment and public spaces. More than half of the women reported in a Transport Infrastructure Ireland study that they would not use public transport after dark due to safety concerns, with one third saying they had feelings of insecurity that prevented them from travelling at all on public transport. One of the reasons given for female second level students not cycling to school is that the bike shed is in a secluded part of the school campus. It even comes down to the design or redesign of our public spaces, building women's safety into our streets, our parks and our countryside.

This is not just about developing a whole-of-government strategy. What is needed is a whole-of-society approach to this challenge if Ashling's death is truly to be a watershed moment. We will not be able to achieve real and meaningful progress without a radically new approach to tackling a problem that has become embedded in our society. I believe that, as a first step, the Minister should host an open policy debate with a policy remit across the broadest spectrum of society on the safety of women, including contributions from those working across this wide-ranging sector, such as non-profit organisations and the Government, as well as international expertise. Most importantly, we must hear the voices of those who plan their route in advance, who walk with the keys in their hand, who make that phone call so someone knows where they are while they are out for a walk or run, that is, every single woman and girl in this country must be given the opportunity to contribute. Such a citizen's forum will not only raise awareness among all participants of the work and activities being undertaken at present but, more importantly, it will identify the gaps and opportunities for reimagining solutions to age-old problems. It is only by taking a comprehensive approach right across society that we can take the first steps towards preventing another tragedy and the ongoing serious assault of women in Ireland.

Deputy Michael Collins is sharing time with his colleagues.

My condolences to the parents, family and friends of the late Ashling Murphy. The horrendous murder of Ashling has hit every man, woman and child in Ireland. As a father of two daughters, they should, as should my son, walk the streets and lovely country walks in the safety that should exist in this country for all. As a country, we need to do better. We need to put a better system in place. We need better safeguarding for victims of violence. We need harsher prison sentences. We all saw the case where a family - a father, a mother, two uncles and an aunt - were sentenced for their abhorrent crimes against their own children, nieces and nephews. Their sentences seemed very light in comparison to the crimes that were committed. In the words of the judge, the parents had engaged in the most profound breach of trust a human being can commit against their children so surely 15 years and nine years is not enough.

We also need cases where children and women are at risk to be expedited through the courts. We cannot have women and children living in fear. A priority needs to be put in place for cases where women and children are at significant risk. Last week, I was told of a case like this in west Cork where the case needs to be heard but it will not be heard until late 2023. That is not good enough. It is of the utmost importance that these cases are pushed up the ladder and dealt with as a priority.

We also need to look at our legal system in a far deeper manner than we have been doing for many years now. Many women come to my office every week who have legally agreed maintenance in a separation but, in many cases, the father of the child or children stops paying maintenance. In its own right, this is another form of abuse; it is financial abuse. The law should be the law. If it is agreed to pay maintenance, it should be paid, or dealt with severely by the courts if not paid. It should be dealt with in weeks, not, as in some cases, left to be dealt with in years, leaving mothers and children hungry at the end of every week due to some men's efforts to control women. Maintenance must be paid at a set amount and there should be no stress for the parent.

In my humble opinion in this discussion overall, we need to give out harsher sentences and make people realise that Ireland is not a place where people who are born here or come to live here can murder someone and get away with it.

In the last 26 years, 244 women in Ireland have lost their lives to violence perpetrated by men. The question so many women are asking is, “How do I begin to feel safe again and how can other women in Ireland feel safe?” There has rightly been a chorus of calls for more action by the Government and the end of a culture of Departments saying it is not a matter for them. I am talking about the Department of Justice, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, the Department of Health and other Departments as to the responsibility they have for services for victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. I am calling for accountability.

We have heard from campaigns for women’s and children's safety in recent days and a joined-up approach to women’s and children’s safety is long overdue. Over Christmas, I was speaking to a person who came home from Canada. She was in a local village when a group of 11 to 13-year-olds heckled her on her way to the shop. There were people on the street and not one person came to her aid.

Is this the norm in Ireland and in our towns and villages? Is it the norm that we see people being heckled, including women, children and elderly people, and nobody coming to their aid?

I give my sincere sympathies to Ashling Murphy and her family. There are no words I can say that will make it any better for the family but it is our job to make sure we do everything possible to bring this perpetrator to justice. For the future safety of women in this country, we have to protect them and all people in society.

What is the answer to Departments and commissions when last week Limerick City and County Council was fined €110,000 for placing cameras in public places by a commission? These are the same cameras we ask for to protect people in this country because of a lack of gardaí and a lack of accountability from Government.

I thank Sinn Féin for giving us the opportunity and proper time to debate this important matter of women’s rights and protection. I want to commiserate with and convey my heartfelt sympathies to the family of Ashling Murphy, and to her boyfriend, friends, class and extended musical family all over the country. It was such a terrible act and no words can describe it. It was horrible, dreadful, terrible and unacceptable. It is awful to think that thugs can carry out these kinds of depraved acts and kill a beautiful girl like this who had so many things going for her. Then we hear of all the other things but you could not say they are lesser because it is unacceptable to treat women or girls badly. We have to strengthen our laws on women and the protection of young girls and I am glad the Minister and the Government are of a mind to do that. Youngsters must be educated on what they cannot and should not do and on what is right. It must start at an early age. I mention refuge accommodation for women. Girls should be able to walk, run or do whatever they want to do wherever they want without being interfered with or assaulted, and certainly without being killed.

I would also like to sincerely thank Sinn Féin for rightly using its Private Members’ time for this motion. I want to offer my sincere sympathy to Ashling’s family, including her parents, siblings, boyfriend, her extended network of friends and the lovely young students who she was teaching and doing such great work with. They will miss their teacher and friend. I am glad that Deputy McEntee is the Minister for Justice at this time and I really mean that. What she has said in recent days has been helpful in difficult circumstances. The family has not had time to even think about what parliamentarians are saying but in time the way the Minister has dealt with this awful problem in recent days will be appreciated by a lot of people.

We all have a responsibility to try to do the right thing and the big question is what is the right thing? What can we do to ensure that no one will have to lose their life? There should be stronger deterrents. Our courts, Judiciary and prison set-up should not be places of comfort and small sentences. There should be deterrents in this country so that people would say you cannot commit a crime because the deterrent would be so strong. We have to all try to work together. No one in this House has the answers but we have to work collectively. That includes the political parties and the individual politicians. We must all use the brainpower we have to do the right thing.

This has upset people to their core. Every person should be entitled to go out for a walk and exercise in safety. Equally, people should be able to go to bed at night and not necessarily be locking doors and setting alarms. People should not have to be worried about where they park their cars either. These types of things might seem minimal when we are talking about the enormity of what has happened to this family but it is all part of what has happened in society. People behaving improperly seems to be accepted and that should not be the case.

I will pick up where I left off earlier and treat it as one debate. I thank Sinn Féin for its practical motion and we could not but support it. I welcome the fact that the Government is supporting it as well. However, this has happened many times with many motions. While acknowledging the Government’s bona fides, I sometimes despair about words spoken in this House. Ashling Murphy is dead. Her name means "dream" or "vision". The greatest tribute we could leave to her is to make the dream of zero tolerance of violence a reality. That would be a real legacy and would give meaning to words.

We have stood up here many times and I make no apology for doing that but one tires of it and one tires of the responses one receives over and over again. When we asked where the audit on extra spaces for refuges was last year we were told it would be published shortly. September and October passed and we are now nearly in February and the Government has given us no reason that was not published.

The audit on how sexual and domestic violence are treated in the various Departments was published last year and I thank the Minister for that. The audit shows that it was utterly fragmented. We are waiting on the third strategy but the audit made some interesting points on the second strategy. It stated: “Oversight responsibility is held by a (largely inactive) Interdepartmental Senior Officials Group...which is nominally accountable to the Cabinet”. It made many other points about gaps in knowledge and so on and it points out that there is “a disconnection between intended and actual action”, which raises “questions about what is blocking progress and how it can be addressed". I have looked at all of this and I have pointed to the fantastic work of Women’s Aid in 1997. It made recommendations, particularly on prevention, working with perpetrators and so on. Some 26 years later we are still talking about it. We have had the various murders of women that have been mentioned from 1996 on and we are barely touching on it.

I ask the Minister to forgive me for my cynicism on this issue. She knows I have spoken on this continuously since February 2016 and that I have demanded, asked, appealed and almost begged for a review of the SAVI report. Some 20 years later we are still talking about it although I know it is coming. It is only after extraordinary pressure from this mixed Dáil that this is happening. When we talk about a seminal or turning moment, let us go back to Manuela Riedo, look at the programme the Rape Crisis Network Ireland carried out with the Manuela Riedo Foundation and let us integrate it in the schools. If the Minister does nothing else after tonight, I ask her to read about the Manuela Riedo Foundation's collaboration with the Rape Crisis Network Ireland. I have no time left to go through it but I will speak to the Minister about that any time. That would be one practical thing to do.

I am more than pleased to have the opportunity to support fully and speak on this Sinn Féin motion on gender-based violence. Like Deputy Connolly, I want to continue on from my earlier intervention today. In one of my first speeches in the House when Covid hit, I lobbied the then Minister for Social Protection, former Deputy Regina Doherty, and the then Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, to put in place emergency rent supplement for victims of domestic violence, women who were in abusive situations and prisoners in their own homes. The issue was raised with me by Safe Ireland which, along with the National Women's Council and others, had already started working with the Department.

As a brief aside, I want to mention the incredible, tireless work that is done by so many different organisations to support victims of domestic abuse. Their advocacy, diligence and unswerving determination to be there for women and children in violent, abusive and coercive situations is second to none. Their humanity and empathy for those suffering domestic violence is something special to see and know but they are stretched way beyond what is reasonable. An essential part of any ongoing strategy to stamp out domestic violence must include proper resourcing of and support for those organisations that stood in the gap with abused women and children when Covid raged.

To go back to the issue of the emergency rent supplement, that was put in place because people worked together and because we had an emergency situation, namely, Covid. The situation has escalated and we need to put in place the measures called for in this motion with the same speed, determination and co-operation as was evident in putting place the emergency rent supplement. When we do that, we can hold our heads up.

There are many other issues I would like to raise but I must return to a matter I have raised on at least four occasions in this House, which is the fact there is no dedicated refuge for victims of domestic violence in Sligo-Leitrim. The Domestic Violence Advocacy Service, DVAS, in Sligo-Leitrim and west Cavan continues to advocate, if not beg, for a dedicated emergency domestic violence refuge for victims of abuse. In 2020, DVAS worked with 226 victims of domestic abuse in Sligo-Leitrim and west Cavan. All it has is three apartments that serve as temporary accommodation but which are totally unsuitable for those at real risk of trauma, injury or fatality and those who need 24-hour supported emergency services.

I have to finish now although there is so much more I would like to say. The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, and the Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, committed to moving the issue of a refuge for Sligo-Leitrim forward and I ask the Minister for Justice to give a commitment on that this evening.

I will start by extending my sympathy to the family of Ashling Murphy on her tragic murder and to the community of Tullamore and surrounding areas. Sadly, we could have had this debate or discussion on any number of occasions in any year that I have been a Member of the Dáil about any number of the many women who have been killed in this country. That says a lot about the situation of women. Some people will say we have not had this discussion because there are not enough women Members of this House. However, there are enough members of the group of perpetrators of violence against women to whom we can talk, who need to listen to women, stand with them and bring about the change that is required. It is by talking to men and influencing men that we can bring change, and the men who are Members of this House can lead that change.

It goes without saying and yet it has to be said that pepper spray, knives or even guns will not prevent violence against women. It will just ensure more women die in violent attacks. As a man, I need to be reminded of the difficulties women have and how we as men do not really understand the situation. Recently, I was talking to a woman in Donegal about the huge amount of abuse she suffered during a political campaign in the county. She told me how men shouted abuse at her and drove around roundabouts twice just so that they could shout more abuse at her. I was shocked and told her that this was not my experience. She replied, "Of course it wasn't; you're a six foot, three inch man so you would not have that experience." That is the reality of the situation.

The Rape Crisis Network sent a very worthwhile document to Members yesterday outlining what needs to be done and not once does it mention legislation, which is welcome. The danger is this House, in wanting to be seen to respond to the situation, will see the passing of legislation as a sufficient response. That may be necessary but I do not think so. There is a lot that can be done before we legislate. In this country we are great at proposing legislation but terrible at implementing it. What we need is implementation rather than the passing of even more legislation. The fact rape crisis centres receive funding of €25 million annually while the horse and greyhound industry receives funding of approximately €70 million shows where the priorities of the system lie. As a country and as a Legislature, we need to step up to the mark. The Government must prioritise the funding of rape crisis services. Nobody in this House would oppose that. As I said earlier, when you consider we are only at 29% of the Istanbul Convention targets for the provision of women's refuges, you can see where the priorities of the Government lie.

Last year the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, said in the Dáil that the Government chose to provide the current number of women's refuge places because community-based organisations and outreach supports are in place alongside refuges. That hardly deserves to be commented on, but if that is the height of our ambition for women, we have a long way to go.

I join Members of the House in expressing my deepest condolences to Ashling Murphy's family, her boyfriend Ryan, her friends, her work colleagues, her pupils and the members of her local and wider community in County Offaly. The entire country is behind the Murphy family as they face this unimaginable grief. I attended very poignant candle-lit vigils in Dungarvan and Portlaw last week. We, like many others around the country, stood in silence but our silence was deafening amid a collective understanding that this terrible incident has affected us all so deeply - a beautiful life lost. People are saddened and sickened by the loss of such a young and promising life, a girl who, by all accounts, gave so much to her friends, her family, her students and her community.

I am encouraged by the Taoiseach's words this afternoon and by the poignant statements made by the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, in recent days. The Minister has been working on a national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence that will be completed in early March. I am heartened that the Minister will, following the publication of that report, lead the policy area on these matters and be responsible for the provision of the services required. Oversight of the delivery of all aspects of the strategy and existing policies will be undertaken at the highest level of Cabinet and by the Department of An Taoiseach directly.

As a wider society we must not and cannot accept a situation in which fear, harassment and violence towards women is normalised to any degree. We cannot be bystanders. We must call out all misogyny, intimidation and violence against women by men when we witness it. Men can make a huge difference in this process through leading by example, showing our younger boys and men that such behaviours are no longer acceptable and need to be replaced by an enhanced level of respect for women. Women should not have to be fearful when going for a walk or a run. Women should not be in fear for their safety when walking home from work on dark winter evenings or from social outings at night with friends or family. If this is consistently the case and women are living in fear, it reflects very poorly on where we are right now as a society and a country and we must reflect deeply on this. It simply should not be the case that the women of this country do not feel safe in their own communities.

Given the outpouring of support and grief in the past week, it is clear we can no longer take such a presumption for granted any more. We have been shocked and frightened as a national community, terrified by the thought this could have been any of our own, any woman among us: a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a partner or a friend. We need to remind ourselves of these women in our lives, so close to our hearts, as we strive for the monumental shift in culture that is required within our society.

It is especially important to remember that more than 240 women have been violently killed in Ireland in the past 25 years. Everyone has a contribution to make to this movement, which needs to start from the ground up and requires a whole-of-society response. The men in our society need to be more active and understanding of the issues that face women each and every day. Having discussed this tragedy with many men in recent days, I believe there is an encouraging willingness, by and large, to be part of the solution and an instructive and collaborative way. This is a positive starting point, but we have an awful lot to do if we are to see the mass culture shift that is obviously required to better all facets of our society for women.

On a personal note, it is encouraging to see so many strong women of our Parliament speak so passionately about the issues in the House tonight and this afternoon, in tribute to Ashling Murphy. It is not easy to be a woman in politics at times, but I am certain that my female colleagues in both Houses will be more determined than ever to fight for the cultural and behavioural changes that are so desperately needed on behalf of Ashling and all women throughout the country.

I want to conclude with a text message that I received this morning at 8:56 a.m. when I was leaving my house to travel to Dublin. I know what it is not all men but it is all women. The message stated:

I'd say you're starting to sweat a little, no? Wait 'til we the people drag you out onto the street and you're crying out for help but there's nobody coming. Hahaha. You know what's coming too.

We have a long way to go.

Last year was a particularly challenging year in the fight against domestic sexual and gender-based violence as we dealt with the effects of Covid-19 and the ensuing restrictions that resulted in an increase in reported incidents. Less than two weeks into the new year we are reminded of this yet again with the senseless murder of Ashling Murphy, a young school teacher barely starting out in life. I extend my profound sympathy to Ashling’s family, friends and community.

Everyone in this Chamber shares a common goal. We want to end the menace of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and make Ireland a safe place for all. To achieve this we must work in partnership and with the NGO sector, which has been working tirelessly on the front line to make women and children safe from domestic, sexual and gender-based violence .

The Government and the whole of society now needs to listen, believe and support all victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence but particularly women and girls who are disproportionately experiencing this violence. Men, all men, must step up to the challenge. The problem of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence can no longer be one for which women and girls must carry the burden. We as men must recognise our role to play by having the hard conversations by calling out instances of misogyny and casual sexism, which are often played down as a bit of a laugh. They are not, and have never been, funny for women. Let us as men take responsibility for changing the caustic atmosphere that our wives, girlfriends, mothers and daughters experience and tell us about when we are listening. We must now all work together to achieve a shared simple goal of zero tolerance of violence against women and abuse.

As the Minister, Deputy McEntee, previously highlighted we will launch the third national strategy of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence in March. There have been extensive consultations across the Government to ensure that we really do articulate and then deliver an ambitious whole-of-government response. The reforms that we set out in the third strategy will mean that victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence will be fully supported within the criminal justice system and their abusers punished. They, like all victims of crime will know that our system is there to serve them when they are at their most vulnerable. The new strategy will address head-on and then unconditional terms the whole unacceptable behaviour by some men in our society, and the enabling of others who may see casual misogyny as banter or having a laugh. This strategy will be backed by a clear, accessible, measurable implementation plan which will be fully resourced and backed by the strength and the weight of the whole of the Government.

As the Taoiseach and the Minister have announced, we are developing a plan to bring policy responsibility for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and the delivery of domestic violence services together under the Department of Justice. Along with the oversight of a new Cabinet committee, the new arrangements to be announced will ensure that the actions set out in the new national strategy are delivered and implemented.

The Minister has shown real leadership on this issue. Once responsibility for both policy and service delivery are brought together under her remit, we will, as a Government, deliver on sustained and radical changes that are needed. Funding and resources will not be lacking in this endeavour, as the Taoiseach has promised.

To continue what the Minister outlined about our Department's efforts to tackle domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, I would also highlight the Covid-19 domestic abuse response plan. Our Department along with An Garda Síochána, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, identified the need for specific actions to protect victims and potential victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. The approach taken was a collaborative one to ensure that all aspects of the problem was addressed and that the well-being of the public was kept clearly at the forefront of all efforts. Through Operation Whistle, An Garda Síochána adopted a proactive approach contacting former victims of domestic abuse to check on their safety and well-being. Additional funding was made available to NGO services to adapt their services to ensure continued availability. Our Department in conjunction with front-line services developed and ran a public awareness campaign that was particularly effective, the Still Here campaign, which is ongoing. The Department is also committed to launching a consent website and launching a consent-awareness raising campaign through working with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Science and the National University of Ireland, Galway. The information hub went live last year and further elements will be rolled out early in 2022 and a review of the projects happening in July.

Awareness raising of victim rights and the new website continues on social media. Funding has been secured to expand awareness-raising activities of victims’ rights in 2022.

The Government does not oppose the motion. There are elements of the text that we would debate and that could be improved but today is not a day for the House to divide on a motion where the spirit of the motion, which we all support, is on zero tolerance on violence against women.

I also want to add my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Ashling Murphy and the wider community. I also offer my condolences of the families and friends of any woman who has lost her life at the hands of a man. As others have said, 244 women have died violently since 1996.

The death of Ashling Murphy has brought to the fore the everyday sexism, violence, harassment and misogyny that women must endure. It is systemic across society. While it is not all men, it is almost always men. To the men who contacted me and got defensive and feel they are being portrayed a bad light, I suggest they look at themselves and cop on. Instead of becoming defensive, it would serve them better to become a little more reflective and reflect on how their everyday behaviour as a man can effect women. They should reflect on how they can change because, after all, it is men's behaviours that need to change, not women's. As a father to two girls, as a son, as a brother and as a basic human being, the senseless death of Ashling Murphy has shaken me to the core. It is incumbent on all men to call out the everyday sexism, violence, harassment and misogyny that women must endure and to be the voice that says, "Enough is enough".

I do not want to live in a society that treats 50% of its population as less worthy just because of its gender. We, as legislators and public representatives, must now work together across all parties and none to put in place measures that will lead to the systemic changes that are needed. Women's Aid support workers heard more than 30,000 disclosures of domestic violence including coercive control in 2020. We all heard the evidence that incidents of domestic abuse increased during lockdown simply because men were at home. I thank Saoirse women's refuge in Tallaght for all the assistance it has given to women and children during these difficult times. A week does not seem to go by that I do not refer somebody to its service. Societal change will not happen overnight. In the meantime, we need to support services such as Saoirse women's refuge and all refuges across the country so at least women will have a safe place to go.

The whole country was shocked by the terrible murder of Ashling Murphy, a talented young woman who accomplished so much in her short life and touched the lives of everyone she met. The tragedy of her murder is compounded by the lost potential of this gifted and popular teacher and musician. My heart goes out to her grieving parents, boyfriend, family and friends. My own constituency experienced two tragedies in the last year with the murders of Jennie Poole and Fabiole Camara De Campos. The community of Finglas was shaken by the extremely violent deaths of these two young women. Just like the community response to the murder of Ashling Murphy, the people of Finglas came out to express their grief and support for the families of the murdered women.

Women from every ethnic, cultural and social background experience domestic violence. It can come in many forms and is not always physical. Psychological abuse can be as harmful as physical abuse, especially if a woman lives under the constant threat of violence. It can also take the form of financial abuse. However, the most common form of gender-based violence is domestic violence. It is an indictment of our society that domestic abuse can remain a hidden crime as many women are reluctant to report it. Substance abuse and the excessive consumption of alcohol is also linked to domestic violence. The lockdowns and restrictions have almost certainly led to increased instances of domestic violence. It is a horrific scenario where a woman in an abusive relationship is trapped with the perpetrator of the violence and abuse during lockdowns. There is an onus on men to confront and challenge men's violence against women, in particular the casual, everyday harassment of women. What we are teaching about such issues is not working and needs to change. There are supports available for women from groups such as SAFE Ireland, Women's Aid, rape crisis centres and the Rape Crisis Network. However, it is sad to say that these supports are only necessary because violence against women continues and will continue until men, the predominant perpetrators of such acts of violence, address their behaviour, and society addresses the ingrained prejudice against women so prevalent in everyday life.

I have never struggled so much, as someone not in this House too long, to put words together to speak tonight because it is simply difficult to find the words. This day last week, all of us, as an entire nation, were brought to a stop. A young woman with her whole life in front of her, with hopes and with dreams, had her life stolen from her in broad daylight along a very popular walking route. A popular walking route in broad daylight was a fairly safe choice to make, you would think. Ashling Murphy; another woman killed by a man. As has been said repeatedly in this House, and cannot be said enough, 244 women have been violently murdered in Ireland since 1996. These were women who were loved, women who were part of families and part of communities and women whose children had to grow up without them. Their lives mattered yet these women, year after year, were murdered and it is still happening. That tells us everything done up to now has not worked. It is not enough just to remember these women, we must instead act and act right now.

Much has been put forward here this evening, in the form of reports, policy, data and legislation. All of it is important but moving forward we must have accountability for every single action we now put forward on tackling gender-based violence. Every month we should have statements in this House outlining the progress being made to achieve zero tolerance of violence against women. We need to show progress, see progress and see the practical steps that are being taken. The public needs to see that too and we must start now.

In my two short years of being a TD, I have come across a number of instances of violence against women that have highlighted many issues to me. In two instances, they showed me the reality faced by women who come forward; the women who actually seek help and seek a way out of violence at the hands of a man in their lives. These were domestic violence situations that showed me first-hand the very difficulty women face in fleeing the family home and seeking alternative accommodation. First, there is no refuge because Roscommon is one of nine counties with no refuge spaces for women. In all of Roscommon, Galway and Mayo there are just 14 refuge spaces for women and children. The three counties have a population of over 228,000 women. Based on the Istanbul Convention, Roscommon Safe Link has told us there should be 46 spaces for Mayo, Roscommon and Galway and as I said there are just 14. In many situations of domestic violence, there is not an opportunity to ring your local TD, maybe to go and meet them or to ring others and reach out. There may be just one chance for a woman to reach out. That is why it is so vital those supports and services are there and they need to be there in an instant. If they are not there, then we have failed. I read through what SAFE Ireland sent us, namely, the 808 requests for refuge it referenced receiving between September and December 2020 that it could not meet because there was no space. I wonder where these 808 people are now. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be in a domestic violence situation where you have no family, no refuge and you are trying to secure private rented accommodation, for we know the difficulties of that in itself. I welcome the permanent extension of rent supplement for survivors of domestic abuse. It is important, welcome and needed but we need to do so much more. I was also contacted by a woman last year whose case of rape and sexual abuse went to trial. However, once the trial was over, all State support vanished. Those are her words. She told me that while the man convicted and sent to prison could access support, a care plan and psychological support she could access nothing. She was told of an 18-month waiting list for post-trauma psychological support.

They were just two women I have engaged with in the last year alone. There are so many more. There are so many more women suffering, so many women living in fear and too many women whose lives were cut short and too many times the State has come up short. To conclude, I hope we can work together. I hope that as women we in particular can work together to make the changes that are so desperately needed and lead the way on this once and for all.

It was a very heart-rending debate. There was an amendment, but because the amendment was not moved in the debate I cannot put it. Thus the only question before the House is on the motion itself. Is that understood by everybody? It is.

Question put and agreed to.
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