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Speech by Minister Flanagan on the Istanbul Convention - the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence

‘This Government, and I, as Minister for Justice and Equality, are committed to doing all we can to tackle violence against women. This violence is a blight on our society and its complexity requires a systemic, multi-faceted response.

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence, commonly known as the Istanbul Convention, is a significant legal instrument in combatting sexual and domestic violence and the Programme for Government is committed to its implementation.

The Convention is a broad based document which covers a number of Departments’ policy areas. The purposes of this Convention are to protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence. The Convention also aims to ensure the design of a comprehensive framework, policies and measures for the protection of and assistance to all victims of such violence.

Senators will be aware that Ireland signed the Istanbul Convention in November 2015. At the time, the Government gave approval to an action plan which contained those outstanding actions that were identified as being necessary to enable Ireland’s ratification of the Convention.

Those 18 actions were included in the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, which was published in January 2016. The implementation of this whole of Government strategy, which contains a range of actions to be implemented across Government departments and agencies, is ongoing.

Progress in implementing the actions required under the Istanbul Convention includes training of public sector officials, the implementation of the Victims Directive, the development and implementation of a Risk Assessment Matrix by An Garda Síochána for victims of domestic violence and sexual crime.

The enactment of the Domestic Violence Act 2018 in May significantly advanced the progress to ratification of the Convention. This ground breaking legislation delivers a number of Istanbul actions including emergency barring orders, extending access to interim barring orders and creating an offence of forced marriage. It is my intention to commence the Act in January, and the agencies who are key to implementing the legislation are working to that end.

There remains one outstanding legislative action before Ireland can ratify the Istanbul Convention and that is legislating for extraterritorial jurisdiction. This technical piece of legislation will provide for individuals who commit particular offences abroad being liable to prosecution under Irish law. It is my intention to publish this legislation in the very near future, and its early enactment will enable ratification of the Convention.

It is my intention to ratify the Convention in early 2019.’