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'Absolutely essential' Leo Varadkar calls for 'minister designated to address violence against women’

"I hope that this can be a watershed moment and I hope that we don’t lose the momentum perhaps that’s been generated by the extraordinary public response to what’s happened."

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A photograph of Ashling Murphy among flowers and candles during a vigil in her memory at Leinster House, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

A photograph of Ashling Murphy among flowers and candles during a vigil in her memory at Leinster House, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

A photograph of Ashling Murphy among flowers and candles during a vigil in her memory at Leinster House, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

The creation of a new ministerial post for dealing with violence against women in Ireland is something the government will consider in the coming weeks, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said.

Mr Varadkar said it was “absolutely essential” that a minister and department is designated to take charge of the government strategy which will be brought forward in the coming weeks to address gender-based violence.

Whether a new post is created or the responsibility falls to a current senior minister “with clout among their colleagues”, is something government must decide, Mr Varadkar said on RTÉ Radio.

Asked if he would consider creating a minister for gender issues when he’s Taoiseach again in 11 months’ time, Mr Varadkar said “that’s a matter for now, not 11 months’ time or a few years’ time."

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

“It’s really important that there’s clear leadership and there’s a designated minister who is responsible for driving this strategy forward. It will require coordination from different government departments. No matter what you do, there will be a housing, justice and child protection aspect to it.

“What you need is all of government behind it and a minister who is the person to take charge of it,” Mr Varadkar said, while adding that the creation of a new ministerial post on the matter is something for the government to consider in the coming weeks.

“I think it’s absolutely essential that we clearly designate a lead minister and lead department for this strategy, yes” the Tánaiste said.

The Tánaiste said it has been a “dreadful week for the country” following the murder of Ashling Murphy and said he hoped it could be a “watershed moment” for the country in terms of addressing violence against women.

“I hope that this can be a watershed moment and I hope that we don’t lose the momentum perhaps that’s been generated by the extraordinary public response to what’s happened. Government needs to lead on that and we will.

“We will have our strategy on gender-based violence quite soon,” Mr Varadkar said. The four pillars of the strategy will be prevention of gender-based violence, protection of victims, prosecution of offenders and policy coordination across government departments.

While Mr Varadkar said government must and will act as a result of the “overwhelming public outpouring of grief, anger and concern”, he said Ireland also needs to act as a society.

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“Government can and will lead but we also need to act as a society and that’s particularly true for men. All of us need to think again about the kind of culture that leads to violence against women.

“I hope what will happen, and what is already happening at dinner tables, sports clubs and in schools is men talking to each other about that kind of culture that gives rise to violence against and mistreatment of women - which is an epidemic in our society.”

Mr Varadkar said the new government strategy will be backed by more finances, additional resources and new staff.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar has said he expects a "phased" reopening of society from the end of January.

Strict Covid-19 measures, including the closure of nightclubs and a curfew for hospitality venues, were introduced late last year amid fears about the spread of the Omicron variant.

Mr Varadkar said he hoped that some restrictions might be lifted "soon".

Members of the National Public Health Emergency Team are expected to meet on Thursday to discuss the latest in the pandemic.

Mr Varadkar said he believed Ireland was "coming to the point where we also need to move on, and we've had very strict restrictions in Ireland for two years now. Last summer, and the summer before that, we had the strictest rules".

He added: "I don't think that should be the case this summer.

"I'll be pushing for a more ambitious, quicker reopening over the next couple of months.

"Nothing risky, nothing reckless, certainly something that's in line with our European peers."

The Tánaiste said he did not expect all restrictions to end overnight at the end of the month.

"I think it will be phased. I don't anticipate that we'll just remove all restrictions at the end of January or the start of February. I think it will be a phased process over the next couple of months," Mr Varadkar told RTE radio.

He said he hoped all restrictions could ease later this year.

"On many occasions we've acted out of an abundance of caution. But sometimes an abundance of caution can be an excess of caution. And we need to avoid that."

However, Mr Varadkar warned: "We need to make sure that we are able to respond rapidly as well if there is a resurgence of the virus and that is a possibility."

He also said it was yet to be determined if some people may require a fourth dose of the vaccine.

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