Pandemic and the advice to stay at home has seen a spike in domestic abuse

11 DECEMBER 2021, THE TABLET

Bishop warns of ‘pandemic’ of domestic abuse

by Sarah Mac Donald in The Tablet

Society must recognise that domestic abuse is “a much deeper pandemic” which is exacerbated by lockdown, the president of Accord, the Catholic marriage and relationship agency in Ireland, has said.

Describing the ongoing pandemic and its restrictions as “testing times”, Bishop Denis Nulty, president of Accord CLG said: “We are perhaps experiencing the most challenging of times since World War II.”

In his graduation address at St Patrick’s College Maynooth for Accord counsellors and facilitators, Bishop Nulty highlighted the role of silent stonewalling and domestic violence in domestic abuse.

He noted that the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus had led once again to a greater level of restrictions and curtailment on personal freedoms.

“New public health instructions around mask wearing in schools from third class, and the return of restrictions around nightclubs, hospitality industry and indoor cultural, community, sport and entertainment gatherings have jolted all of us.”

It was another “reality-check” from a pandemic that began as “a tiny microbe” in Wuhan.

“From a single viral particle that could not be seen by the naked eye, our world, as we know it, has been brought to its knees.”

Speaking as president of Accord, he said the agency’s first concern must always be to heal the wounded and provide the listening ear of the counsellor to help a couple or individual on their journey to greater self-confidence and esteem.

The agency, which operates 55 centres throughout the island of Ireland, celebrates its diamond jubilee next year. Describing its record of service as something to be “immensely proud” of, Bishop Nulty also paid tribute to Accord’s clinicians, counsellors, facilitators, centre administrators who “demonstrated huge resilience” throughout the pandemic.

The ‘Covid-19 Couples and Relationship line’ was established overnight to respond to those who needed support in lockdown, while a Virtual Interactive Marriage Preparation Programme has been delivered on Zoom to those preparing to marry.

The pandemic and the requirement to stay at home has seen a spike in domestic abuse. More than 43,000 calls were received by the Gardaí relating to domestic abuse incidents in 2020, an increase of 17 per cent on 2019.

Earlier this year, Safe Ireland published its report, Tracking the Shadow Pandemic – Lockdown 2, which showed that at least 2,018 women and 550 children a month received support from a domestic violence service from September to December last year. This included 6,000 women and 1,100 children who sought support for the first time.

The first Accord centre, which was originally the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council, was established in Belfast in 1962. Centres followed in Limerick in 1964; Newry in 1966; Waterford in 1967; Dublin in 1968; Carlow in 1969; Newbridge in 1972; Derry in 1973 and by 1984 there were nine centres across Dublin alone.

Statistics show that West Dunbartonshire is the worst area in Scotland for domestic abuse which spikes around the time of the Rangers v Celtic football match at New Year.

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