Cross-Community Labour Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh today pledged that as a MLA for Fermanagh-South Tyrone in May he would demand Stormont provide proper resourcing of refuges for victims and survivors of domestic violence.
He explained his experience on this issue to date:
“As a councillor I was able to attend a presentation by Women’s Aid on the current problems they were facing. I was both shocked and dismayed to find out that due to Stormont cuts, there were no longer any dedicated domestic violence refuge units anywhere in Fermanagh.
“Subsequently I raised this issue publicly and repeatedly at council meetings and succeeded in getting the council to write to the Communities Minister demanding action. In response, a commitment was made to provide three domestic violence accommodation units in Enniskillen – which was a success.
“That said, even this provision is completely inadequate. It’s widely known that the number of reported incidents of domestic violence has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic but there is literally nowhere for those living in fear to go. This can be a life or death situation. Three or four emergency units are just not enough.”
Gerry Cullen, the former left councillor for Dungannon backing Donal’s candidacy as Assembly member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, shares his concerns. He said,
“This is an issue which I’ve been concerned about for many years. After hearing of Donal’s efforts on this in Enniskillen I double-checked the situation here. Sadly I confirmed that Dungannon doesn’t have any dedicated domestic violence refuge units either. Anyone currently needing emergency housing has to go to Cookstown. This is just not acceptable and is another unnecessary barrier for anyone wanting to break with their abuser.”
Councillor O’Cofaigh concluded,
“The recent scandalous closure of Regina Coeli House in Belfast, which was the main supported accommodation for women in Northern Ireland who have been abused or trafficked, shows that this is not an isolated issue. Stormont has completely failed to provide emergency housing for those wanting to escape domestic violence.