L-R President of TUS Vincent Cunnane, Madeline Mc Aleer (Training, Research and Development Director of HH), Dean of TUS Dr Maura Clancy, Minister Simon Harris, Claudine Donnellan (TUS), Dr Niall Corcoran (TUS), Dr Matt Cannon (TUS). Photograph: Arthur Ellis
A DOMESTIC, sexual and gender-based abuse (DSGBA) community practice has been launched by the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, and Science, Simon Harris (FG) in Ennis.
Developed in collaboration between Ennis based Haven Horizons and the Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest (TUS), the community practice forms part of ongoing efforts towards zero tolerance of domestic abuse. Their work has resulted in the development and delivery of accredited training on domestic abuse and coercive control.
Speaking at the launch at Haven Horizons’ office on the Mill Rd in Ennis, Madeline McAleer who is research, training and development director at the voluntary organisation commented, “Despite the unprecedented investment into services for victims of domestic abuse, 2022 was the deadliest year for women and children in Ireland in a decade – 12 women and 5 children were murdered. The Community of Practice, which is part of our Knowledge and Research Centre, seeks to address this”.
She added, “we all need to keep asking ourselves why is this happening and what do we need to do to change it, we have to work from the bottom in individual knowledge right to the top in legislation”.
Minister Harris stated “it is an epidemic in Ireland when it comes to sexual violence”. The importance of changing laws was also recognised by the Wicklow TD, an area he became more familiar while filling the role of Minister for Justice during Helen McEntee’s (FG) maternity leave. “We live in a country where there is a real problem with sexual violence, Garda and CSO stats show that. Most of those who have experienced it know the perpetrator”.
Haven Horizons were described by Minister Harris as trailblazers over a long period of time and a group that is “changing Ireland for the better”. He noted the involvement of TUS in what was a successful partnership. “When I was appointed Minister in this Department with this ridiculously long title, a very long title with a simple purpose, my goal was helping everyone reach their potential”. Education systems will not work if persons do not feel safe, Minister Harris acknowledged.
Ten students completed the accredited Continuous Professional Development training devised by Haven Horizons and were presented with their certificates by Minister Harris. “Today is another step in the research step and tackling what is a really big issue,” he said before issuing the scrolls to the members of An Garda Síochána who enrolled in the course.
President of TUS Professor Vincent Cunnane said the third level institute had “a very fruitful partnership” with Haven Horizons. He commented, “Haven Horizons had the passion and vision to bring together academics and practitioners in the field of domestic, sexual and gender-based abuse to influence real societal change, and TUS matched that passion and vision to help make that change a reality. The Community of Practice represents the logical next step in our partnership. It is the fusion of theory with practical experience and theory that will help propel the field forward and underpin more beneficial change in society that will benefit people in very real ways”.
Training received is improving the work of Gardaí in the Clare Division, Chief Supt Colm O’Sullivan outlined. “Having Gardaí of different ranks who have completed this interagency training has changed the way in which domestic abuse and coercive control are responded to and investigated in the Clare Division. The collaborative approach provides Gardaí and other agencies an opportunity to learn the latest trends and proactive responses to domestic abuse and coercive control”.
Offering further insight into the programme, Madeline explained, “Connecting the lived experience of survivors with frontline professionals, academics, policymakers, and legislators has the potential to revolutionise the response to domestic, sexual and gender-based abuse. Currently, research in the field of domestic, sexual and gender-based abuse is fragmented and findings are not translated into practice, policy, and legislation quickly enough. The price of this disconnect has been paid by thousands of victims of domestic abuse and coercive control, some of whom have lost their lives”.
She added, “Education is powerful, but it is using our shared knowledge to influence and inform practice, policy, and legislation that leads to cultural, structural, and systemic change.”
Co-founder of Haven Horizons, Colette Reddington told the launch that their organisation was “quite a small outfit”. She added, “you recognise the patterns on what a dangerous relationship is from doing the course, he or she, it’s usually he that is controlling the partner”.
Along with Caoimhe Feerick, daughter of co-founder Mary Fitzgerald, Colette presented Minister Harris with a copy of the book ‘Light on the Horizon’ before he departed Ennis.