06 Jul 2022

No site yet for Laois domestic abuse women's shelter

Hope falls to open Laois domestic abuse women's shelter

Search unsuccessful for a site to build a Laois women's domestic abuse shelter

Hope has turned to disappointment in the plan to open the first women's refuge centre in Laois to save women and children  from domestic abuse.

Five months ago hope soared as a site in Portlaoise was understood to be found, and the Government and TUSLA confirmed that an eight unit Portlaoise Refuge is a priority with finance available.

That news was warmly welcomed by Laois Domestic Abuse Service, by Laois TDs and by councillors.

This June, the news is less positive.

Laois County Council has confirmed that their search for a site is still unsuccessful.

Director of Services for Housing is Angela McEvoy.

"The Housing Department together with Laois Domestic Abuse Service has been trying to secure a site for the service for some time now. While it is challenging in the current climate to identify and acquire an appropriate site to meet the needs of the service provider and end users, and we have not been successful to date, we will continue to work on identifying a site and progress on acquiring a site in a collaborative manner," she said.

Her answer was to a motion tabled by Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald who gave her reaction.

"This is really disappointing. A few months ago we were all very hopeful with announcements being made that we had a site. I thought we had it sorted.

"When we are dealing with women in domestic abuse situations, the most common question they ask us is 'what will I do? Where will I go?'.

"We are one of only nine counties that don't have a refuge. We were full of hope. There is nothing concrete in this answer. We are back to square one. 

"We really need this badly in our community because women and children would have so much support from their own family and friends and grandparents. The children could continue in their schools and sports. I ask for this urgently. This is so disappointing. So many sites are looked at. Surely one of them is suitable," Cllr Fitzgerald said.

Cllr Thomasina Connell seconded Cllr Fitzgerald's motion tabled to the June meeting of Portlaoise Muncipal District.

"The site requirements are very particular, it needs to be a new build. They don't want to be shoehorned into something unsuitable. My understanding is there will be significant progress on the nine counties that don't have refuges. I am confident that Portlaoise will be near the top of the list. It will be the Department of Justice providing it in conjunction with the council. 

"Everybody here is in contact with someone who is a victim of domestic abuse. It is prolific. They shouldn't be asked to get on a bus to another county. I ask that you send a letter to Minister Helen McEntee and we get a copy," she said.

Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley has raised the issue many times in the past she said.

"I am disappointed at the response. The CEO had stated he was having difficulties to accessing a site, but there are other sites. The HSE has sites. This shouldn't be a problem. In the latest update we got, over 300 families a year are using Laois Domestic Abuse Service, and 100 have to leave the county with their children. It is just no longer acceptable. The recent stats showed an increase in abuse. We need to get our act together and stop shippihng out our problems. It is disgraceful for families to be uprooted from their friends and neighbours. I support the sending of a letter to fasttrack this," she said.

Cllr Willie Aird said there should be no talk of not being able to find a site.

"If the will is there, we can stop this or it will go on an on and I guarantee we will be back here next year," he said.

With Cllr Noel Tuohy, he agreed that the issue should be faced by all seven Portlaoise Municipal District councillors. They are to seek a special meeting on it with the CEO John Mulholland. 

Laois County Council, the Laois Offaly Garda Division and Laois Domestic Abuse Service are all working to achieve the unit, which needs to be in Portlaoise as the biggest populated town, and must be a site rather than a building, as it needs to be purpose built, with individual homes in a safe enclosed setting.

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