Cross-party cooperation makes significant progress on domestic violence legislation

The Civil Engagement Group in Seanad Éireann welcomes that the critically important Domestic Violence Bill 2017 has today passed committee stage in the upper house. Among the amendments agreed at committee stage today were the creation of the offence of coercive control, and the acceptance that the closer the abuser is to the abused, the more serious that offence is. This was achieved thanks to the close cooperation of Senators from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour, the Civil Engagement Group, and independent senators, as well as constructive engagement from Minister David Stanton and his officials in the Department of Justice and Equality.

“While the focus has understandably been elsewhere in the past number of days, the Domestic Violence bill is a ground-breaking piece of legislation for women, children and others and must be passed into law as soon as possible,” said Independent Senator Colette Kelleher, a member of the Civil Engagement Group.

“Today the Seanad is sending an important signal that controlling and coercive behaviour should and will be regarded as a criminal offence. This is an important step forward in our understanding of intimate partner violence and as well as offering protection to those affected it will, I hope, also contribute to prevention,” said Civil Engagement Group leader, Senator Alice-Mary Higgins.

“I am really heartened to see the broad, cross-party consensus to make this bill as effective as possible. This is politics at its best, and it will have a big impact on the protections against domestic violence in this country, particularly for women. I’m especially happy that our provision for emergency barring orders was accepted, making it as easy as possible for a vulnerable person to get such an order out-of-hours. These are the small but meaningful changes that committed legislators can achieve working together, and I’m delighted to see this bill one step closer to becoming law”, said Senator Frances Black.

“During my career as a community worker, I supported many victims of domestic violence and know just how vital and necessary this legislation is. While I welcome the robust measures & protections for victims in the bill, it must be matched with additional and targeted resources for front-line services. This needs to be a key priority for the Minister for Justice and must be addressed in tandem with the bill’s enactment,” said Senator Lynn Ruane.