Northern Ireland

Michelle O’Neill says whole-of-society approach needed for ‘epidemic of violence against women’

First Minister Michelle O’Neill said one of the first acts of the new Executive must be to introduce a new framework on violence against women.

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill
Sinn Fein Northern Ireland First Minister and Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill

A whole-of-society approach is needed to tackle an “epidemic” of violence against women and girls, First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.

Ms O’Neill told an Assembly debate that one of the first acts of the new Stormont powersharing Executive must be to introduce a new strategic framework and action plan on the issue.

It came as MLAs debated a motion calling on the Executive Office to urgently implement the framework to end violence against women and girls.



During the debate it was pointed out that since 2021, Northern Ireland has the joint highest rate of femicide in Europe.

Ms O’Neill said the early tabling of the debate “underlined the significance and priority” the Executive put on tackling it.



She said: “One day one of this new Assembly I stressed very clearly how vital it is for all of us to work collectively and to end violence, abuse and harm suffered by women and girls in all of our communities.

“These women are not statistics, these women are our mothers, our sisters, our aunts, our daughters, our friends, our work colleagues, and they are us who have been speaking in this debate today.

“We must take action now to stop this violence and we must never forget those that have been killed.

“Too many names to mention, too many grieving families. These murders did not occur in isolation, they are part of an epidemic.

“The sad reality is we all know someone whose life has been impacted by her experience of domestic violence, abuse or harm.”

Ms O’Neill added: “Challenging violence against women and girls is not a new problem, but dealing with it does require a whole-of-society approach.”

“One of the very first acts of this new Executive must be to introduce a new strategic framework and the associated action plan.

“That work is now being finalised and I look forward to coming back to the chamber to talk about it in more detail.”

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Michelle O’Neill
Stormont Assembly Northern Ireland’s First Minister Michelle O’Neill (Oliver McVeigh/PA)

The First Minister said obstacles still remained for women when reporting abuse and accessing support services.

She said: “Our justice system must be one in which victims, survivors and the public can have confidence, knowing that offenders will be held to account.

“High quality and accessible services must be available to every woman and every girl who needs them.

“Much more than this, prevention is key. For children and adults of every age we need to work towards changed attitudes and behaviours.

“Women and girls have to feel safe and be safe everywhere, in all places where they live, where they work, where they learn, where they socialise.

“We will only end violence against women and girls if men and boys are part of the solution.”

She added: “Delivery will require commitment from every corner of this Executive and indeed every corner of our society.”