Speech by Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher T.D., Minister for Health Promotion and Food Safety on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of AMEN

10 December 2007

I am delighted to open this conference ‘Much Done, More to Do’ being organised by AMEN. Indeed this is not the first time that I have come across this slogan!

At the outset I would like to congratulate AMEN on its 10th anniversary. I understand that An Taoiseach has also sent his best wishes to AMEN on this historical milestone. AMEN continues to provide a very valuable service to the community and is a tribute to the hard work, the foresight and the dedication of Mary Cleary and her colleagues.

In the past 10 years AMEN has done a commendable job in raising public awareness of the issue of men as victims of domestic violence. In the past domestic violence was treated as a woman’s problem only. It was portrayed simply as a case of male perpetrators and female victims. However, due mainly to the work of AMEN, it is now accepted in Ireland that both men and women can be victims and perpetrators of violence in the home. By raising awareness of the issue AMEN has broken down many of the taboos which prevented men from speaking out and seeking help.

In providing supports AMEN has also done excellent work with limited resources. It would be impossible to quantify the benefits of this work to the men themselves and to the community at large. What we do know is that prior to the setting up of AMEN there were thousands of men, suffering silently and alone in abusive relationships, who had nowhere to go for help. Over the past ten years over twenty thousand of these men have contacted AMEN and are continuing to avail of the services and supports provided.

Considerable progress has also been made in the area of research over the past number of years. We now know a lot more about the gender prevalence of domestic violence than we did at that time. There have been a number of small scale studies and one comprehensive large-scale study, carried out for the National Crime Council, which dealt with this issue. The main findings of the National Crime Council study, which is the definitive piece of research on domestic violence in this country, are:

The study suggested that in the region of 88,000 men and 213,000 women in Ireland have been severely abused by a partner at some point in their lives.

The primary purpose of this important piece of research was to inform Government policy on the issue of domestic violence. This research pointed to the need for greater supports to be put in place for male victims. Since then a number of steps have been taken to rectify this problem.

Cosc

The Government’s commitment to this issue is evidenced by the establishment of Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence earlier this year. For the first time there is now a dedicated resourced office at Government level with the key responsibility to ensure the delivery of a well co-ordinated response to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Cosc will collaborate closely with service providers who support victims and treat perpetrators of domestic violence.

This is a clear acknowledgement that all forms of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, including ‘violence against men’, is a criminal issue as well as a social and family issue which is being taken seriously by Government. The fact that all domestic and sexual violence is included is a tribute to AMEN and other Non-Governmental Organisations which have worked so hard to have it included on the political agenda. I should also add that I am pleased to see that the recently appointed Executive Director of Cosc, Éimear Fisher, is due to speak at this conference today.

Role of the HSE

I am also happy to note that over the past year, the Health Service Executive, which of course comes under the aegis of my Department, has entered into a Service Level Agreement with AMEN. The basis of this Service Level Agreement is that AMEN, with the support of the HSE, will develop a support service for male victims of domestic violence in the HSE Dublin/ North East area initially and when it has been fully developed it will be used as a model to be rolled out to the rest of the country over the next few years. I fully support this initiative and I encourage the HSE to continue its positive approach in working with AMEN to develop this service. This does not, of course, mean that people from other parts of the country are denied help. The AMEN helpline and their support meetings have been a lifeline for many men and their families and this valuable support will continue.

Conclusion

To conclude, I would once again like to congratulate all those involved in organising this conference. I hope that in the future the strong partnerships built in the organisation of this conference will act as a foundation for continued collaborations between stakeholders at all levels which will contribute to the growing awareness of the plight of male victims of domestic abuse

I would like to finish by giving my thanks to AMEN for their hard work and wish you all every success with this conference. I thank you for your kind invitation to be here today. I would also wish you all a Happy and Peaceful Christmas.