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MacManus seeks former Kazelain Building as Domestic Violence Refuge

16 Nov 2009

Cllr. Chris MacManus’ proposals seeking stronger laws to protect those suffering from domestic violence and the usage of the former Kazelain building as a refuge for women and children was discussed at Sligo Borough Council on Monday, 16th November. All of his proposals were adopted unanimously.

Cllr. MacManus’s speech:

‘Domestic abuse is an issue that affects people from all walks of life and one that is a priority to both highlight and address. Until domestic abuse is treated as the harrowing crime it is, we as a society are not making progress. We should not ignore or turn a blind eye to a serious crime that leads to people being physically and mentally scarred in their own homes day in day out.

The justice system is the only system that can protect women from violence in the home. International research has demonstrated that an effective response from the justice system can reduce violence against women. Conviction rates are alarmingly low; only between 1% and 6% of domestic violence offenders receive a prison sentence and many women experiencing domestic violence report that the legal system has failed to protect them from their partner’s violence. In some regions waiting times for hearings for barring and safety orders can take over 3 months. Further, unmarried parties often find that they are not covered by the legislation or must remain with the violent party for a certain period before being eligible.

Therefore, I call on the government to make the necessary provisions for the introduction of an effective and consistent sanctioning system; to amend the Domestic Violence Act 1996/2002 to allow non-married parties better access to protection and develop guidelines on the granting of protective orders; to re-introduce and resource a role for the Probation Service in family courts producing safety reports and risk assessments to inform judges’ decisions and to ensure the supervision of child access where necessary to protect against further abuse.

Women who experience domestic violence may need a range of services including: emergency accommodation, transitional housing, and support services. Frontline services have suffered from neglect of this area and in a recent consultation, 83% of services said that they were not resourced to meet current demands. 3 years ago, the Women’s Aid National Helpline was unable to answer 2 out of 5 calls due to lack of resources. Last year more than 1700 women, subjected to domestic violence, were turned away from refuges due to lack of space. Therefore, this Council should call on the government to prioritise and guarantee core funding to frontline services including refuges, outreach, counselling, court accompaniment and transition housing on a multi-annual basis to allow for the strategic development and delivery of service.

And what of our responsibilities here in Sligo? The North-west region is in a regretful position as being the only region state-wide without purpose built emergency accommodation for those who have experienced domestic violence. Within recent years, the Borough Council as lead agency amongst a number of local authorities, has been working alongside the frontline agency DVAS in addressing this shameful position. It was envisaged that a purpose built refuge would have been part of the social housing element in the wider Ballinode development proposals. Due to the economic downturn, this proposed development is now many years off. This however should not mean, that those who are or may suffer from domestic violence should be forced to endure continued abuse. We have a responsibility to assist in anyway we can, both as a local authority and a community. Therefore I am proposing: ‘That this Borough Council requests the County Manager to consider leasing the former Kazelain building, for use as a refuge for those suffering from domestic violence. Further, that the Borough Council agrees to consult and discuss with related agencies, such as DVAS as regards to this building’s suitability for this purpose.’

This building is lying dormant since the Department of Justice forced it’s closure in November ’08. A facility that cost ¤2.6 million to purchase and renovate, is now lying idle. Contrast this with the needs of victims of domestic violence, mothers and children alike, who have no facility in the north-west. Let us do the right thing by looking after those who have for to long been forced to suffer and endure, because they felt they had nowhere to go.

I ask members to support both the motion and the addendum.

 

Borough Council to review Anti-Social Behaviour Policy

Cllr. Chris MacManus proposing that Sligo Borough Council review it’s Anti-Social Behaviour Policy, has called for a more robust policy that will adequately protect tenants and home owners and that will use exclusion orders to remove serious offenders from council built streets and estates.

Proposing the motion Councillor MacManus said:
“Sinn Féin believes that every person has the equal right to safety at home and in our communities. Anti-social behaviour, taking its form in illicit drinking and graffiti to the much more serious problems such as drug dealing and intimidation is a scourge not unique to Sligo but common to all sections of Irish life, both urban and rural.

While I recognize, that the Gardai have the primary role in tackling this issue, there is a role for this borough council to protect our tenants and those who have purchased their council homes, especially the most vulnerable like our elderly.

That was why a number of years ago, I sought for this Council to create and adopt a strict anti-social behaviour policy to protect all those who live on council built estates. This at the time was a progressive measure and Sligo became only the third local authority in this state to make such a commitment to its citizens.

Now is the time to review how successful this Council has been.

While I acknowledge, that the council has had some positive outcomes in dealing with anti-social behaviour within our communities, it must also be said that this Council, at a senior level, has been lacking in regards to stricter enforcement and moving at a swifter pace.  Our implementation of this policy has not been assisted at times by some court decisions.

Therefore, I would propose that this borough council would initiate a full review of its current anti-social behaviour policy.

Amongst the new initiatives I would be proposing during this review are:

  • The use of exclusion orders for serious offenders, not just from named households, but from whole estates.  This we are entitled to do under the Housing Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1997. To date, this Council has failed to actively enforce this power.

  • The inclusion of a mandatory commitment to seek eviction and exclusion orders on those convicted with possession of illicit substances with intent to supply, who give their home address from within any council built area.

  • An active publicity campaign to promote this new policy throughout the borough. Unfortunately, not enough of our community are aware of the policy’s existence and that this Council has a Housing Investigation Unit to follow up on all complaints received.

  • A clear explanation showing this Council's commitment to protecting the anonymity of members of the community who make genuine complaints.
This review should include a full public consultation process and should proactively engage with community, voluntary and residents groups throughout the borough.  The draft new policy should be presented to this Council, within six months.

This I believe is the minimum that this Council must do to show the community that we are willing to play our part in tackling this scourge.

For too long, working within the communities I represent, I have continued to feel frustrated at the manner with which this issue has been dealt with.  Sometimes I've had to resort to direct confrontation with some of these anti-social elements and on occasions I’ve been physically threatened by the same thugs. But I will not be deterred and neither should this council”.

The motion was passed unanimously on 6 April 2009.
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