On Thursday, June 13th, 2013 Mick asked the Minister for Justice if he will sign the European convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, and the reasons he has not signed the Convention to date. In his contribution, Mick points out that The latest statistics from Safe Ireland show that on over 2,500 occasions in 2011 domestic violence services were unable to accommodate women and their children because the refuge was full or there was no refuge in their area. You can watch the full debate here or read the transcript below.
Ireland supports, in principle, the aims and terms of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. It is a detailed convention, with a very broad scope across a number of policy areas with potential policy and legislative implications. The provisions of the convention, and the legislative and administrative arrangements that would be necessary to allow signature and ratification of the convention by Ireland, are being examined in my Department in conjunction with the Government commitment to introduce consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation to address all aspects of domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation in a way that provides protection to victims.
A particular difficulty to be addressed in Ireland’s consideration of the convention relates to reconciling property rights under the Irish constitution with the requirement under Article 52 of the convention - the availability of emergency barring orders. The development of the consolidated and reformed legislation, including consideration of the convention provisions, will be progressed as soon as possible having regard to the need for consultations and other legislative priorities in my Department.
Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, is undertaking the preliminary work in developing proposals for consideration. Cosc has met with relevant groups from the NGO sector and received some proposals for consideration. Further material is also awaited from the sector.
The convention has not yet entered into force as this requires at least ten ratifications, including eight Council of Europe member states, which has not yet occurred.
I am sure the Minister is aware Ireland has just one third of the refuge capacity recommended by the Council of Europe. The latest statistics from Safe Ireland show that on over 2,500 occasions in 2011 domestic violence services were unable to accommodate women and their children because the refuge was full or there was no refuge in their area. It is a fact that one in five women have been subjected to domestic violence in Ireland. While there have been Government commitments in recent years to deal with the crisis, progress has been very slow. NGOs providing services to women experiencing domestic and sexual violence are witnessing an unprecedented growth in demand for their services.
Do I take it Ireland will not be signing the convention before the end of Ireland's Presidency of the EU? What plans has the Minister to increase refuge capacity in Ireland?
I can confirm to the Deputy that we will not be signing the convention before the end of the EU Presidency, which finishes at the end of June. As someone who spent many years of his life working with victims of domestic violence and seeking to ensure our laws were as robust as possible, I have a particular personal interest in us trying to bring about a situation where we can be parties to this convention. However, when the convention was put in place, it is my understanding that the previous Attorney General raised constitutional issues with the particular provision I mentioned. I am examining whether we can get around that difficulty and I believe it may be possible for us to do so. Nonetheless, for us to sign up to the convention will require a change in our law, and that is something to be addressed in the new consolidated legislation bringing together all of our existing law on domestic violence and implementing some additional reforms. I do not envisage this legislation will be published prior to 2014 because of the major legislative agenda and some of the other areas we are dealing with and addressing in the family law area, such as the children and family relations Bill that is under substantial preparation. However, it would be my objective that we do everything possible in this area to provide the best possible protection to victims of domestic violence.