Education and zero tolerance are our greatest tools to combat domestic violence

During Christmas, our Government relaunched the ‘Still Here’ series of advertisements in an effort to ‘reassure’ those who are trapped in abusive relationships or in fear for their safety that support is available to them. They also made clear their intentions to introduce paid domestic violence leave early in 2022 – i.e. this year.

I believe this is not only a wonderful initiative, it’s also something that’s way overdue. However, despite Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman describing this process as being a ‘personal priority’ for him, I don’t hold out much hope that we’ll see anything being done any time soon.

By the time the Government’s finished engaging in ‘targeted consultations’ with, well, everybody in a bid to examine strategies etc., it’s my fear that heels may get dragged and cans may get kicked so far down the road, people could potentially lose their lives before anything concrete is implemented. It’s all very well recognising the existence of domestic violence and offering support mechanisms for those affected by it when it’s after the fact, but isn’t prevention better than cure?

2021 saw a ten per cent increase in domestic violence incidents being reported to Gardaí. It’s now 2022, and right across this State, vicious bouts of abuse, cruelty, violence and control are going to continue to happen to people of all ages and all backgrounds. Based on certain observations I’ve made, and conversations I’ve had, I can sadly tell you there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence around to suggest that domestic violence is an extremely worrying issue right here in Roscommon. If I was worried about a particular situation, I’d have no hesitancy whatsoever in calling the Gardaí. Would I feel like a busybody? Yes! But if I genuinely felt someone was at risk, I’d have to make that call. Why? Because domestic violence and abuse is not just the ‘victim’s’ concern, it’s everybody’s concern.

We all have a personal responsibility to put an end to domestic and gender-based violence, and must never stand idly by when someone is suffering. Nor should we hesitate if we suspect someone is being harmed. What we must do is act on our concerns and call the Gardaí, who are trained to follow up and follow through, should they feel there’s a need to do so.

While I believe a paid-leave scheme for those brave souls who both need and deserve it is welcomed, there’s still a significant body of work to be done by our Government. A major part of this should be a concerted effort by Education Minister Norma Foley to bring about attitudinal change in our schools. She could do this by immediately introducing and implementing training programmes specifically targeted at raising awareness of domestic violence into the national curriculum. These programmes must encompass a multi-layered approach, including placing a firm focus on gender equality. It’s only by increasing awareness and knowledge around this epidemic of abuse at a young age, that we as a nation can place ourselves in the unique position of being able to prevent (as opposed to cure) the destruction and desolation these cowardly thugs are causing to families.

If I were Minister for Justice, in a genuine effort to show these bullies this country means business, I’d begin 2022 by implementing a zero tolerance approach towards them. This would do two things – A, put a stop to their gallop, and B, serve as a deterrent to any future ‘would-be’ abusers.

Domestic violence and control leaves a horrific and lasting impact on every aspect of family life, very often for generations to come. Indeed, I’m convinced it’s possibly the main reason why some mothers and their children fall into homelessness, sadly becoming dependent on crisis accommodation while the lousy thug who abused them lives it large in the family home. Where’s the justice in that?

While statistics tell us that the majority of domestic abuse is perpetrated by men against women, men too can also be affected, with Men’s Aid reporting that ‘at least one in seven’ will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

I believe if we’re ever going to shift the archaic and ignorant attitudes historically held around gender-based violence and inequality that span right across this land of saints and scholars, we must act now to introduce both an educational and a zero tolerance approach. If we don’t, not only may more women tragically lose their lives, but the physical, sexual, emotional and financial harm perpetrated against our grandmothers, mothers, sisters and daughters etc., will become so entrenched into our national identity, Ireland could shamefully become labelled as being the domestic violence capital of Europe.

 

Comhghairdeas agus lá breithe shona do An Garda Síochána

I’d like to congratulate An Garda Síochána, which next month (February 22nd) marks the centenary of its foundation. A little history lesson: When the organisation we now know as An Garda Síochána was formed, the force was originally known as the Civic Guard, and they took over policing duties from the then controversial Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC).

Proud Irish citizens like me will remember the RIC as being a group of heavily-armed thugs (in my opinion) who terrorised – sorry, policed – Ireland (mainly outside of Dublin), allegedly participating in many atrocities against rural communities, including assisting evictions and suppressing rebellions.

For the sake of balance, I must stress that many will view members of the RIC as being ordinary people who were just ‘doing a job’. Indeed, it could be said (by some) that perhaps these enforcers, along with their notorious special reserve, the Black and Tans, may have been ‘unjustly and unfairly’ treated by history. It depends on your individual opinion. Personally, due to their violent acts on ordinary civilians, mine is one of contempt.

But I digress…back to our present-day Gardaí. I’d like to specifically mention those ‘rank and file’ members who have a very difficult job, often placing their own safety at risk in a bid to keep us, the public, safe. These brave men and women deserve to be commemorated and celebrated. I for one hope this centennial is given as much (if not greater) consideration, importance and significance by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee than that which was given by her predecessor Charlie Flanagan, when he shamefully and inappropriately (in my opinion) tried to get us to memorialise and honour the RIC.

 

Why I’ll be tuning into DWTS

An impossible-to-place ‘singer’, an aspiring ‘model/influencer’, a ‘chic-lit’ author and a would-be jeweller etc., all trying to replenish their social standing by competing on our screens to become king or queen of the dancefloor!

Meet the so-called ‘truly stellar line-up’ for RTÉ’s next series of Dancing with the Stars! Or as I call them, members of the celebrity underclass, who, just as they were about to fade into permanent obscurity, miraculously managed to secure themselves a lucrative gig!

I hate celebrity cringe – sorry talent shows – however, I will tune into DWTS. It’s not because I’ve lost all sense of where the bottom of the barrel lies, oh no. I once worked in TV production, so I am familiar with that scraping sound! I’ll be glued to my telly because I get a deliciously devilish kick out of watching a group of fragile has-beens and the barely-famous driving themselves to the brink of distraction…all in a bid to take home a gaudy glitter ball!