- 07 Feb 23
The new statutory domestic violence agency is aimed to take up office next January.
Draft legislation will be brought forth to cabinet in the next month for plans to establish a statutory domestic violence agency, Minister Simon Harris has announced.
The upcoming agency’s announcement comes in conjunction with the Government’s ‘zero tolerance’ strategy to tackle domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence (DSGBV).
Victims of DSGBV are set to be prioritised under the new legislation with plans to commission and fund support services for those affected or at risk of any such violence.
The full-time agency which is aimed to take up office next January will be tasked with delivering refuge spaces and safe houses, implementing government policy, and leading campaigns designed to reduce the incidence of DSGBV in society. The agency will also play a crucial part in collecting and developing data, and carrying out research into DSGBV.
Speaking on news of the announcement Minister Harris said, “The minister for justice, myself now, and Minister [Helen] McEntee before and after, will be the people with the political responsibility to co-ordinate this."
"Political accountability will still go through updates to the Cabinet committee. But having a group of people working in an agency that’s full-time, whose only focused job is co-ordinating the delivery of the strategy, I think, is a really, really good thing,” he continued.
The Irish Examiner has reported that CEO of Dublin’s Rape Crisis Centre Noeline Blackwell has praised the great potential of the proposed agency if the strategy is fully implemented, and enough resources are allocated to it.
With major plans to tackle DSGBV before the summer, Mr Harris has announced plans for the State to pass laws to double the maximum sentence for assault causing harm and legislation to allow for electronic tagging of sex offenders.
While there is no law to implement a cultural shift, Simon Harris has expressed the need for conversations about consent, gender equality, and healthy relations.
Stating that he is “instinctively” in support of a domestic violence register, Harris has also highlighted his desire to see the findings of research being conducted by NGOs on the issue.
In the meantime, the Minister for Justice has also expressed interest in pursuing a study on familicide and domestic homicide.
The report which was recently completed and given to the Department of Justice a number of months ago has also been submitted to Gardaí.
Former minister Charlie Flanagan has also commissioned an independent study in 2019 following the tragic murder of Clodagh Hawe, who was killed by her husband, Alan, in 2016. Alan Hawe also took the lives of his three young children before taking his own.
Support services for victims of DSGBV can be found here.