Councillors stunned by member's personal story

April 29th, 2019 7:05 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Marie Mulholland: ‘a refuge would need to have 24/7 garda presence nearby'.

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Colleague outlines how they left their home in fear seeking refuge with nothing but ‘toys and clothes’


A CORK County councillor, who outlined their own personal account of fleeing the family home and seeking refuge, is calling on Cork County Council to lead the way in establishing a safe house for the county.

At a meeting of the local authority this week, the councillor said they fled the family home with only ‘a box of toys and a bag of clothes’ and ‘hid in the car’ until finding a place in a refuge.

‘It was three months that I stayed there with my son before I felt strong enough to be able to go out and find an apartment and try and get a job and build a new life for ourselves,’ they told a shocked chamber.

‘I can’t stress how important it is for people to be able to go to a safe environment and they can’t access this support now because the waiting lists are getting longer and longer.’

A refuge centre is a place where lives can be ‘saved’ and whereby families can get support and begin to slowly rebuild their lives, they said. ‘You’ve no idea what it’s like to live in a situation like that with the threats of fear, violence and intimidation and the stuff that happened to me would make the hair on the back of your neck rise,’ the silenced Council chamber was told.

Cllr Diarmaid Ó Cadhla (Ind) suggested that the setting up of ‘safe houses’ across different towns in the county would help the situation and he commended the councillor for giving their own experience of seeking refuge.

‘It’s not just refuge these families need, but also they need counselling and financial support,’ said Cllr Ó Cadhla.

Cllr Gobnait Moynihan (FF) pointed out that if someone from Macroom, for example, was seeking refuge, the closest place to go would be Cork city or Tralee. 

‘And if you want a normal life for your children regarding school, then this isn’t going to work,’ said Cllr Moynihan.

Cllr Gillian Coughlan (FF) said the suggestion was about ‘power and powerlessness’ and she believes that the Council, as a provider of houses, should take a role in this.

‘We should work with stakeholders and explore opportunities here,’ said Cllr Coughlan.

Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) praised the voluntary work of the West Cork Women Against Violence (WCWAV) project and said that they operated with minimum funding and said the Council should be working with groups like them to set up shelters in towns across West Cork.

Councillors agreed that the motion would go forward to the Housing SPC (Strategic Policy Committee) for further discussion.

Marie Mulholland, co-ordinator of the WCWAV project, told The Southern Star that she fully supported the councillor’s motion for a county refuge centre. 

‘At the very basic minimum we should have 21 family places (units) with a total capacity for 29 children for the county – based on the population – and we need to be a bit more strategic where we place these centres. West Cork, for example, is a long way from Cork city,’ said Marie.

She added that WCWAV are working ‘really hard’ to secure a safe house in West Cork.

‘Cork County Council has recognised a need for one, but the problem is trying to find an appropriate premises in the right location. 

‘It would also need to be in a place where there is 24/7 garda station cover,’ Ms Mulholland added.

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