BRITISH Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been urged to enact a violence against women strategy in Northern Ireland following the murder of Chloe Mitchell.
SDLP South Belfast MP Claire Hanna called on the MP to act after a man was charged with the murder of the 21-year-old who went missing from Ballymena in Co. Antrim on June 3.
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions in Westminster yesterday, Ms Hanna told the house that “Northern Ireland remains one of the most dangerous places in Europe for women”.
She added: “Chloe Mitchell is the 39th woman to be murdered here since 2017 and police are called to a domestic violence incident roughly every 16 minutes.
“Women should feel safe in every part of their lives, whether they’re socialising with friends or at their workplace and in the home, but as these figures illustrate all too often that simply isn’t the case.
“Far too many families like Chloe’s have been left broken after losing a loved one to this senseless violence and we cannot allow this to continue.”
Ms Hanna stated that the ongoing political stalemate in the North, and the lack of a functioning Executive, has meant issues such as violence against women in the region cannot be actioned.
“Like so many of the things we need to improve the lives of people in Northern Ireland, properly tackling this issue has been delayed by the lack of an Assembly and Executive at Stormont,” she said.
“We have been in desperate need of a violence against women and girls strategy for many years, but following consultation we cannot move forward without ministers in place.
“The situation is compounded by the financial situation seeing groups like Women’s Aid – who do outstanding work – facing funding cuts.”
She added: “I’m appealing to the Prime Minister and the UK Government to step in and deliver this strategy, ensuring that the necessary funding is in place and support groups do not lose out because of political failure.
“It’s long past time that we dealt with the cultural issues and behaviours that result in violence against women and girls still being such a scourge across Northern Ireland.”
Sinn Féin have echoed the call for action this week.
Following a briefing by Northern Ireland’s Executive Office yestterday afternoon, the party’s Caoimhe Archibald said: “At a cross-party briefing, we received a comprehensive update on the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy which has had vital input from a range of women’s groups, youth groups, and service providers.
“I am hopeful that the strategy will go out for public consultation in the near future.
“It is vital, however, that we have an Executive in place as soon as possible, with Ministers to drive forward implementation of work under the strategy.”
The East Derry MLA added: “We also need a budget to support the Strategy to ensure that it is fully delivered.
“Women and girls cannot wait any longer, we need an Executive in place now to prioritise this work.”