herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Minister 'shocked and saddened' by murder-suicide

Children Minister Katherine Zappone
Children Minister Katherine Zappone

Children Minister Katherine Zappone said she was "deeply shocked and saddened" by the murder-suicide in Cavan last week.

She was speaking at the official launch of Women's Aid's 24-hour helpline.

Its director, Margaret Martin, said that women told them on 970 occasions that their abusive partners threatened to kill them, their children and their families in 2015.

The organisation also said women have disclosed being punched, cut with knives, hit with golf clubs, scalded and strangled among 579 additional complaints last year.

Sympathy

Women's Aid reported a 30pc spike in contacts on its website since the horrific incident in Ballyjamesduff last week.

School vice-principal Alan Hawe (41) killed his wife Clodagh (39) and their sons - Liam (15), Niall (11) and Ryan (6) - before taking his own life.

Ms Zappone said: "I am deeply shocked and saddened by what happened in Cavan.

"My sympathies are with the family of course and the community and particularly the children who have lost their friends and colleagues.

"But rather than to focus on that one case, which may add to the grief of the extended family, I think it's really important to say that the Government is keen to support families who are in distress," Ms Zappone added.

She said that "violence does occur" and highlighted the Women's Aid helpline.

She encouraged women at risk of domestic violence "to ring the helpline to look for support".

"That's the first step towards a new life," she said.

The helpline was extended to 24-hours in January, despite a 20pc cut in government funding to Women's Aid last year.

Its staff answered almost 2,000 "out of hours" calls in the first six months of the year.

Women's Aid needs another €75,000 to fund the service until the end of 2016.

Asked if the Government would provide additional funding, Ms Zappone said ministers were beginning negotiations on spending estimates. She was due to meet Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe yesterday. "Of course, it's very important to see that we can get more money into services like Women's Aid," she said.

Angry

Ms Zappone delivered an impassioned and at times angry speech at the event, highlighting that one-in-five women in Ireland who have been in a relationship have been abused by a current or former partner.

"That's a wake-up call for all of us ... particularly those of us who are governing. It's shocking," she said.

"Bringing an end to domestic violence is difficult because the men who carry out the violence are also the men with whom the victim's been close, intimate, partners. Sometimes it's the father of the woman's child. Abused women can be bound by strong feelings of loyalty," she added.

But she said an "all-too-common question in relation to women who suffer from domestic violence is why do they stay in the home?

"This question takes away from the real issue - why does he beat her?"

The Women's Aid free-phone helpline is: 1800 341 900.

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