9 counties in Ireland do not have domestic violence refuges
There are also no refuges available to men in Ireland.
The lack of refuge centres for those fleeing domestic violence needs to be urgently addressed, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
The call comes as nine counties do not have refuges and there are no refuges for men in the country.
Several domestic violence support groups gave evidence to the Joint Justice Committee.
Over the course of the pandemic, Women's Aid said there was an 43% increase in calls relating to domestic violence - a figure it referred to as "the tip of the iceberg".
Women’s Aid spokesperson Christina Sherlock said the matter “urgently needs to be addressed" due to the recent increase in domestic violence and highlighted that funding was an significant issue.
“Funding for refuges needs to be increased urgently to meet the surge in demand brought on by the pandemic and to maintain compliance with Covid-19 health regulations,” she said.
“In 2020 there were 57,277 calls to local and national helplines; 23,785 incidents reported to Gardai, and 4,000 breaches of protective orders.
“The first line of support for women, and children, experiencing domestic abuse must be immediate access to protective services to mitigate risk of further or escalating harm.
“At a minimum, this includes pathways to safe accommodation, information, judicial protection, and therapeutic supports.
“With only 144 refuge spaces available across the entire country, domestic violence services faced unmet requests for refuge from 1,351 women between March and August 2020.
“Without the corporate assistance of Airbnb, which generously made hotel beds available for refuge, the outcomes for women and children would have been much bleaker."
During the pandemic, Air BnB partnered with Women’s Aid and Safe Ireland to support those experiencing domestic violence by offering them a place to stay when emergency accommodation was unavailable
Groups also highlighted that the lack of refuge spaces for men is an issue that needs urgent attention. Government research suggests 95% of abuse experienced by men is not reported.
Kathrina Bentley from Men’s Aid said that in 2020 the group supported more than 5,000 people. This figure is expected to rise to 8,000 in 2021.
“The under-reporting of domestic violence is a huge concern, highlighting how difficult it is for men to report an abusive partner.
“Men in Ireland are aware there are no refuge options so don’t usually ask, however, to date we have had over 30 requests for a safe bed this year.”