Thursday, 16 June 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. O’Connor: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to raise this serious issue. He will know, as other Members do, that I often raise issues relating to Tallaght. I am positive about the town, the third largest population centre in the State. Tallaght has often been described as having the population of a city but the status of a village. Thankfully, over the past 14 years, there has been much progress in this regard. Tallaght now has the facilities and infrastructure one expects in a new town. These include the town square, the hospital, the civic centre and the institute of technology. On an ongoing basis, it is the local Members’ role to highlight the needs of Tallaght as a new town and look for the facilities and services required.
This issue I have raised relates to a women’s refuge project which has been under consideration for some time. Over the years, a strong case was made for a women’s refuge in Tallaght. The need was highlighted by the Saoirse group working towards the building of the refuge for the last ten years. It was identified as a necessity in numerous reports and plans for the area, including the 1997 report of the task force on violence against women, the eastern regional planning committee on violence against women development plan, the South Dublin County Council development plan, the RAPID plan for west Tallaght, the Health Service Executive’s south-west area service plan and the Homeless Agency plan. Organisations including Saoirse, the Swan group and Tallaght Welfare have made the argument for the refuge for some time.
Much progress was made to the extent that South Dublin County Council identified a building and offered it to the refuge committee. It also received funding from the RAPID programme for the building’s refurbishment. All was well until the Health Service Executive dropped the bombshell that it is not in a position to offer funding for the refuge. I hope that whatever his prepared script tells him, the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, will tell his departmental officials that this is a serious issue for Tallaght. It would only take a small amount of money to get the project running. There is a strong demand in Tallaght for this particular service.
Mr. O’Connor: In an editorial last week, it claimed the decision of the Health Service Executive to withdraw funding for the women’s refuge in south Dublin for victims of domestic violence is a disgrace and should be reversed immediately. I do not want to pile it all on the Minister of State but this is a serious issue. On a day when the Health Service Executive is applauding its new chief executive, it must be able to respond to this situation. If funding is not made available, if this building reverts to South Dublin County Council and if the RAPID funding is returned, those involved in the campaign for the refuge claim the project will never happen. This would be a shame.
I hope the Department of Health and Children, under the leadership of the Tánaiste and the Ministers of State, including Deputy Brian Lenihan, who is present, will help us. The women of Tallaght seek the assistance of the Department in this regard and I hope it will be forthcoming.
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. B. Lenihan): I am replying on behalf of my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. I thank and congratulate Deputy O’Connor for raising this matter as it provides me with an opportunity to outline to this House the current position regarding the opening of a women’s refuge in Tallaght, Dublin 24. I reassure the Deputy that the matter will receive a great degree of attention in both the Department and the Health Service Executive. I take issue with the local journal cited by the Deputy, in that it is not a question of cutbacks but a question of providing funding for a new project.
Mr. B. Lenihan: However, I understand from the Health Service Executive that this matter is receiving attention and the issue was discussed as recently as this week by the housing agency funding assessment panel, which is a partnership co-ordinating body of the HSE and local authorities.
I also understand there was a plan to develop a refuge in Tallaght as part of a social housing project which was to be completed in 2006 and that the attendant costs would arise then. The offer of premises by South Dublin County Council, while welcome, was at short notice. In the context of the current year, it has come at a time when there was no financial allocation available for such an initiative. Nonetheless, the HSE remains in discussions with Saoirse and the housing agency on the issue of the Tallaght women’s refuge. I have asked the HSE to keep me updated on all developments on this project.
The issue of violence against women is receiving much attention within the Department. My colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, has asked the HSE to undertake a review of funding to all services within this sector and to report findings and recommendations to her. Simultaneously, the national steering committee on violence against women, in which the Department participates, is compiling a strategy for its work over the coming five years. The Department awaits recommendations and attendant funding decisions when this strategy has been completed and agreed upon.
The policy in regard to such services remains an important issue within the Department and as already stated, the management and delivery of such services is now a matter for the Health Service Executive.
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