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Lack of sexual assault forensic testing a barrier to justice - Ó Snodaigh

19 January, 2005

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said the fact that there are only five centres in the state providing sexual assault forensic testing is "a barrier to justice" and the Government must now take responsibility.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "This Government has failed to ensure the most basic facilities for women who have been sexually assaulted or who have experienced domestic abuse. It is not acceptable that many counties lack a women's refuge service. It is beyond belief that women in parts of the country have no local access to forensic testing for sexual assault because this is a totally unnecessary barrier to justice. Despite increasing demand, organisations such as Women's Aid have been subjected to a funding freeze since 2002, and this has resulted in cutbacks of the limited essential services that are available.

"Inter-departmental responsibility is not a legitimate excuse. The fact remains that there is widespread, consistent and persistent underfunding of frontline women's services. This Government must now take responsibility because this situation is reaching a crisis point. Domestic violence and sexual abuse of women are hugely prevalent crimes in Ireland, and it is my view that the Minister for Justice should use his considerable energy and cabinet influence to get the needed resources released now.

"Sinn Féin fully supports the call for a €7 million increase in funding to the women's frontline services sector, for funding for these and related services to be ring-fenced, and for multi-annual planning and financial support commitments from the Government. At the very least we need an urgent commitment to make sexual assault forensic testing available in every county.

"I challenge Michael McDowell to take us out of the dark ages on this issue and to make this his lasting legacy as Minister for Justice." ENDS

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