Ireland

Refuge spaces plan short of number required by international Convention

Justice Minister Helen McEntee standing at a podium speaking to media
Justice Minister Fine Gael's Helen McEntee speaking speaking to the media at Government Buildings in Dublin. Picture date: Tuesday January 30, 2024. (Niall Carson/PA)

A plan to double the number of refuge spaces in Ireland over the next two years will still fall short of the number of domestic violence spaces required by the Istanbul Convention.

The Convention is a legally binding strategy to tackle domestic and sexual violence, to which Ireland has signed up.

It comes as the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, opened a new domestic violence agency, Cuan, on Friday.

Cuan will co-ordinate and report on delivery of the Government’s zero tolerance strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.



The agency will also deliver safe and accessible refuge accommodation, which will double to 280 units nationwide by the end of 2026.

However the Istanbul Convention, which requires parties to develop laws, policies and support services to end violence against women and domestic violence, says there should be one family place for every 10,000 of population, by which calculation Ireland should have 476 family refuge places.

Ms McEntee said that while they have “ambitious” plans, they also have to be realistic in what can be achieved by 2026.

She said: “The target that we have set is for this strategy and this strategy alone. We will of course be ambitious and want to go beyond that. But we have to be realistic in terms of what we can achieve between now and the end of 2026.

“The objective is to double the number of refuge spaces that we have. We are making good progress.

“We have 36 new units that are coming on stream in three different areas, in Navan, in Wexford and in Dundalk.

“On top of that we have significant work under way in other counties, in Cavan, Monaghan, in Dun Laoghaire and Rathdown, and in Carlow and other places that we’ve identified sites for building.

“Part of the overall objective here is yes, to make sure that we have a space for any person who needs them, or any woman, any child, any man, but we also need to reduce the number of people who need access to this refuge and accommodation.

“I want to see more victims staying in their own home and not being the ones that have to leave.

“So much of the zero tolerance strategy is focusing on that as well as making sure that we have a bed for anyone who needs it.

“So this is the start, there’s more we need to do. But I want to be realistic in what we can achieve here and I think this is ambitious at the moment.”

Cuan will also work to raise awareness of, and prevent, domestic and sexual violence, and lead on campaigns.

Ms McEntee said that the opening of Cuan shows that tackling domestic and sexual violence is her priority.

Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe, who will run the agency, said: “The challenge of leading Cuan and delivering on the zero tolerance strategy is one I look forward to.

“My work now is to establish our team and the functions of the new agency, from research and policy co-ordination, to awareness-raising and driving delivery of safe and accessible support services including refuge accommodation.

“I would like to thank minister McEntee for trusting me with a task of such huge importance, and look forward to working with her department, all government departments and agencies, and our close partners and stakeholders in the NGO and DSGBV sector.”