Councillors are calling for a safehouse to be established in the county for women and children fleeing domestic violence.

Lack of safehouses ‘an utter disgrace’

A former Mayor of County Cork has called on the council to establish a safehouse for women and children fleeing domestic violence in the county.

Cllr Mary Linehan Foley believes there is nowhere near enough shelter in Cork for people forced to leave their homes for reasons of domestic abuse.

She said the Cuanlee Refuge for Abused Women & Children in the city centre is the only real option for victims living in East Cork and throughout the county.

The shelter currently has six beds, only three of which are in use due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“If you have somebody that's in difficulty and needs to flee their home for whatever reason with their children, they head to the city and there's three beds available. Scary,” said the councillor.

“I think to have just one house available between the city and the county with six beds and only three in use is an utter disgrace,” she added.

Speaking at County Hall, Cllr Linehan Foley said she was approached by former councillor June Murphy who is heavily involved in North Cork domestic violence project You Are Not Alone (YANA).

“I don't think it's a big ask for people to have a safehouse to go to for whatever period of time. We need a house available for somebody who needs to flee at whatever time of the day or night,” said the councillor. Fellow East Cork Cllr Liam Quaide said he has also been in communication with YANA who have been keen to address the Housing Committee for some time.

Cllr Quaide said a safehouse for people experiencing domestic violence in Cork county is a “very pressing need” which has been made worse by Covid-19.

“The damage caused by domestic violence is devastating and far-reaching. In many cases, the welfare and safety of children as well as adults are in grave danger, with potential developmental and mental health consequences.

“As such, I believe that council should do everything it can to support the development of a safehouse as a matter of urgency,” he said.

Director of Services for Housing, Seamus De Faoite responded to Cllr Linehan Foley’s request by highlighting that Cork County Council is aware of two safehouses in the county, including one in North Cork.

Cllr Linehan Foley acknowledged a safehouse in the Mallow area but said it was still not enough in her opinion.

Meanwhile, Cobh Cllr Sinéad Sheppard said she has dealt with a number of women in her weekly clinics are in “complete distress” and have nowhere to go.

She said: “Cuanlee and Edel House do absolutely Trojan work. They go above and beyond for these people but trying to get them into the system is the really hard thing.

“I commend what the council does for homelessness in relation to getting people emergency housing but when you have people coming to us from a situation of domestic violence, the first port of call has to be Cuanlee or Adel House.

“They have to go through that avenue to bring them back to us in Cork County Council. That's the procedure that we go by.

“During the pandemic, I was dealing with Cuanlee and they were saying that, because all the B&Bs and hotels were closed down during lockdown, they had nowhere for these women and children to go,” she added.