By Justine McCarthy
Saturday November 18 2006
IT IS hard to decide, in the blaze of fury ignited by Judge Thomas Fitzpatrick’s ignorant remarks in Letterkenny District Court on Thursday, whether the man should be promptly removed from the bench, or whether he should be awarded a medal.
If any good is to be salvaged from his crude hypothesis that women are “crying wolf” about domestic violence it is that he has swivelled the spotlight, if only momentarily, onto one of the most neglected virulences in our society.
Women are being murdered at an average rate of one a month in Ireland. In most cases, their killers are men they know. The occurrence of rape is increasing but the proportional incidence of reporting it is diminishing and the number of those reported rapes that culminate in convictions is minuscule. Gardai log about 8,500 call-outs to domestic violence incidents each year. There are waiting lists for counselling in the Rape Crisis centres across the country.
Of the 25,000 calls made to the Women’s Aid helpline last year, 10,500 rang out because the organisation did not have the money to answer them. The Government promised it €70,000 to ensure these calls would be answered in future and then reneged on the pledged funding.
On the day that the financial plight of Women’s Aid was reported in this newspaper, the main front page story calculated that TDs were getting €1,000 for every day they attended Leinster House.
Whenever it is mooted that there ought to be special training for judges in handling cases of domestic violence, the over-riding imperative of judicial independence is cited as an immovable obstacle. Clearly, the insensitive comments of some judges are also an impediment to the administration of justice and put a question mark over the efficacy of providing special training for gardai if the courts cannot summon up the sensitivity required.