Plans are advancing to construct a refuge centre to cater for victims of domestic violence in Laois.
A meeting of the Portlaoise Municipal District yesterday heard how around 100 women per year are seeking refuge from abusive home situations.
However, these women and their families are being sent to Longford as there is no such facility available in the county.
Sinn Fein Councillor asked for an update from Laois County Council in relation to discussions between Joe Delaney and members of Laois Domestic Abuse on a new centre.
Mr Delaney said: “Laois County Council are in regular contact with Laois Domestic Abuse Service regarding their plans to construct a refuge.
“The Housing Department has given advice to the Service on their proposed development and engaged the assistance of the Irish Council for Social Housing to advise the Service further.
“Any refuge will have to be constructed through funding provided by the Capital Assistance Scheme and the Council will actively assist the Service through the preparation and submission process for such a funding application.
“In the first instance a site will have to obtained by the Service and the Council will support the Service in identifying and selecting a suitable site.”
In response, Cllr Dwane-Stanley outlined her interactions with the service and proposed some potential sites for a development.
She said: “I have been in regular contact with Laois Domestic Abuse in recent times, particularly since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“While the numbers of people seeking refuge hasn’t increased that much, the severity of abuse that is being experienced has intensified.
“400 women have engaged in the last year and 100 of those sought refuge.
“They are dealing with home environments which feature alcohol and substance abuse, verbal and physical abuse and financial control.
“If they have families, this is of course having a huge impact on children – the effects of which we will not fully know for years to come.
“100 women are being forced to leave the county each year for refuge – leave abusive homes but also leave their families and extended support networks.
“For a project like this, I reckon we could receive 80% funding and the remainder would have to come through fundraising – something I reckon the people of Laois would rally behind.
“The Council has land in Tyrrells and also at St Fintan’s Hospital – either of those would prove perfect locations.”
Agreeing with Cllr Dwane-Stanley, Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said that refuge centres need to be local so that children can remain in their schools and have as normal a life as possible.
While Cllr Thomasina Connell, a lawyer who practices in this area, said the lack of a centre in Laois results in a number of women not asking for the help they need.
She said: “The only refuge centre is in Longford and many people do not want to go there.
“So that means they stay in difficult circumstances and that often results in worse outcomes for them in the long run.”