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Government publishes Zero Tolerance strategy to tackle domestic, sexual and gender-based violence

Government publishes Zero Tolerance strategy to tackle domestic, sexual and gender-based violence

  • Taoiseach joins the Minister for Justice and Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to publish the most ambitious plan to date requiring whole of Government and community effort to create an Ireland where gender based violence is not tolerated
  • €363 million investment will double the number of refuge spaces and improve services and supports for victims
  • The establishment of a statutory agency for domestic, sexual and gender based violence by January 1, 2024
  • Updated primary and secondary school curricula to include consent, coercive control, domestic violence and safe use of the internet  
  • Maximum sentence for assault causing harm – a common domestic abuse offence – to be doubled from five to ten years
  • Public awareness campaigns to challenge existing myths and biases  
  • Regular research will measure prevalence and support change

  The Government has today published the Zero Tolerance strategy. Led by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, it is an ambitious five year programme of reform to achieve a society which does not accept domestic, sexual and gender-based violence or the attitudes which underpin it.  The €363 million strategy is built on four pillars – Protection, Prevention, Prosecution and Policy Co-ordination – and the accompanying implementation plan contains 144 detailed actions to be implemented this year and next through new oversight structures. This will ensure that everything that is promised in the plan is delivered according to the clear timelines that have been set out. Its central aim is Zero Tolerance of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence in our society. The actions are drawn from across Government departments and State agencies to reflect the fact that Zero Tolerance can only be achieved through a whole of society effort, and that domestic, sexual and gender-based violence cannot be treated as a criminal justice issue alone.

The Zero Tolerance strategy also seeks to clearly identify children and young people as both witnesses and victims and survivors. 


The strategy was approved by Cabinet today and launched by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman.


An implementation plan, as also approved by the Government for the first 18 months was published by the Minister today, with annual action plans to follow for every subsequent year of the lifetime of the Zero Tolerance strategy.


Speaking at the launch of the strategy, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said:


The launch of the third Domestic Sexual Gender-Based Violence strategy is an incredibly important moment for our country. It signals the Government’s determination to affirm and protect some of our most vulnerable people. It will accomplish this through a comprehensive set of actions reaching across Government, spearheaded by a dedicated new Agency with oversight from the Department of the Taoiseach.


Its ambitions extend to many parts of our society from education, to healthcare, and into our workplaces to name a few. Every sector has a part to play in calling out and taking action against DSGBV so that, once and for all, we reject the outmoded beliefs on which it rests.


Minister McEntee said:


Zero Tolerance means we don’t turn a blind eye to violence and abuse just because it’s behind closed doors.  It means we don’t laugh off inappropriate touching or comments. It means we teach our children equality and respect from a young age.


We will strive for Zero Tolerance through greater education and awareness to change attitudes and teach respect. By supporting victims with compassion when they take the brave step and come forward to seek our help. With effective punishment for perpetrators. And with a sustained will and dedication to bring about the change we need. 


This strategy is the most ambitious to date in seeking to bring about that change. It will see the fastest ever expansion of refuge spaces and improved services and support for victims through a €363 million investment, and updated primary and secondary school curricula to include consent, coercive control, domestic violence and safe use of the internet.


It has been developed with those working in the sector and on the frontline with victims. The knowledge and experience of these groups has been crucial in drafting this plan, and will be central to its implementation over the next five years.


It has also been developed with the pain and suffering of too many victims at the forefront of our thoughts – we commit to them and their memories, and to each other, that we will work towards Zero Tolerance as our ultimate goal.


Minister O’Gorman added:


I welcome the introduction of the Third National Strategy on DSGBV. This Strategy is the culmination of months of collaborative work between Government Departments, Tusla and organisations in the DSGBV sector.  The Strategy is ambitious and far-reaching, and will go a long way to protect and support all victims of DSGBV.

I am glad to see that many of the recommendations from the Review of Accommodation for Victims of Domestic Violence, published by Tusla, have been incorporated into the Strategy and in due course will make for a significant expansion of refuge places, improving availability of DSGBV service nationwide.

I look forward to working with partners in Government, Tusla and the sector to progress this strategy and make Ireland a safer place for all.


Among the actions to be completed or begun within the first 18 months to two years of the five year strategy, under each of the four pillars of the plan, are:



  • Updated secondary school curricula at junior and senior cycle to include consent, domestic violence, coercive control and safe use of the internet. The new junior cycle curriculum will be finalised in September 2022 for public consultation and rolled out in September 2023, with revised senior cycle curriculum finalised by September 2023 for public consultation and rolled out in September 2024. A revised primary school curriculum to include the same topics, taught in an age appropriate way, will be finalised for consultation by 2024. The Anti-bullying procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools will also be reviewed and updated in parallel with this work.
  • Ambitious awareness raising campaigns to focus on attitudes among men and boys, increase awareness of services and supports among victims and reach migrant and minority communities, as well as the rollout of the national campaign on consent
  • Updated planning guidelines to ensure public safety concerns are central to the development of public spaces, with planning to begin for local safety audits to assess lighting, seating and other factors to make public spaces are safer
  • Improved training for professionals and support staff engaged with domestic, sexual and gender based violence
  • Develop and implement a Night Time Economy Charter to develop industry safety standards – this will be a requirement for annual licence renewals
  • New public transport passenger safety and personal security reports to be undertaken and published by Department of Transport and National Transport Authority every year
  • Roll-out of an online hub on consent and sexual awareness across the third level education sector
  • Collect data on rate of sexual violence and harassment across the higher education sector



  • Progress work to double the number of refuge spaces – an apartment type unit where victims of domestic abuse can seek safety – over the lifetime of the strategy, from 141 to 282. This will be the fastest ever expansion of refuge spaces and will ensure that every county has a refuge – a building which can contain a number of apartment type units.
  • Key milestones to reach this target include:
  • The completion of 24 spaces in locations in Wexford, Dundalk and Navan by 2024
    • 98 new refuge spaces in Sligo, Cavan/Monaghan, Cork City, North Cork, West Cork, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Westmeath, Portlaoise, Balbriggan Longford, Carlow and Offaly. Project management and capacity building supports are being made available under the strategy throughout 2022 and 2023 to progress these refuges
    • A further 19 refuge units will be provided in other locations, including Roscommon, Leitrim and Cavan/Monaghan
  • Increase the number of safe homes – accommodation for victims and children in homes in the community, rather than refuges – by a third by the end of this year, up from 30 to 44 with further expansion over the duration of the plan
  • Work to remove the legal barriers that prevent individuals experiencing sexual or domestic violence remaining at home where it is safe to do so and examine how to allow An Garda Síochána issue removal orders to take offenders out of the home in high risk cases
  • New training for healthcare workers to be developed by the HSE to identity domestic violence and refer victims to appropriate services
  • The introduction of statutory domestic violence leave this year
  • The development of national support services for children as victims/survivors of DSGBV; DSGBV trauma informed therapeutic counselling services for adults and children; DSGBV trauma informed parenting supports



  • Increase the maximum sentence from five years to ten years for assault causing harm – one of the most common charges in cases of domestic abuse. This measure will be included in the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which will be enacted by the end of the year.
  • Begin engagement with the judiciary to consider the creation of specialised judges for domestic, sexual and gender based violence cases
  • Establish a review cycle within the Department of Justice to identify and consider further reforms to the law, beginning with, among others:
    • Strengthening the range of emergency orders available to the Courts
    • Increased powers of detention when investigating specific domestic abuse related offences, allowing for detention of more than 24 hours
    • Limiting bail for breaches of barring orders where there is a history of violence
    • How to better protect vulnerable women against sexual exploitation and ‘sex for rent’
  • Improve the prosecution of domestic, sexual and gender based violence cases by providing specialised training across the entire Office of Director of Public Prosecutions and strengthening training in An Garda Siochána
  • Additional training in An Garda Siochána to improve prosecutions and breaches of all DSGBV civil orders
  • Publish and implement the Family Justice Strategy and enact the Family Court Bill to make a more user friendly family court system
  • Work with An Garda Siochána to examine the establishment of a Domestic Violence Register
  • Continue the implementation of the Supporting a Victim’s Journey Plan to place the victim at the centre of the criminal justice system
  • Enact legislation to introduce stand-alone offences of stalking and non-fatal strangulation
  • Enact the Sexual Offences Bill to implement a number of recommendations in Supporting a Victims Journey, and to provide for a revised National Referral Mechanism to ensure that we can support the victims of human trafficking and disrupt the criminal networks which seek to exploit such vulnerable persons
  • Enact the new Hate Crime Bill to introduce new, specific aggravated offences with enhanced penalties for crimes motivated by prejudice against certain characteristics, including gender. This will mean that certain types of crimes can be prosecuted as hate crimes where they are motivated by misogyny
  • The rollout of body worn cameras in An Garda Siochána top help investigate domestic abuse cases and other crimes and protect Gardaí


Policy Co-Ordination

  • The establishment of a statutory agency for domestic, sexual and gender based violence by January 1 2024. The new agency will:
    • Co-ordinate the implementation of the Zero Tolerance strategy, and report to the Minister for Justice. The Cabinet Committee on Social Affairs and Equality will provide political oversight for the implementation of this strategy.
    • Deliver excellent services to victims, including the provision of accommodation, helplines and other supports
    • Lead on awareness raising campaigns to reduce incidence of DSGBV and ensure victims can access supports
    • Leading on consistent and ongoing research to inform policy development
    • Report to and follow policy as set down by the Minister for Justice, who has lead government responsibility for DSGBV
  • The establishment by the Central Statistics Office of a new National Domestic Violence Prevalence Study.  The first survey results will be published in 2028, and will be conducted in alternating five year intervals with the National Sexual Violence Survey, which is due to be published in 2023.
  • Oversight to be supported by new High-Level Oversight Board to be jointly led by the secretaries general of Department of the Taoiseach and Department of Justice
  • Work with the Ombudsman for Children to support the strategy, with the Ombudsman providing advice and support to implement actions aimed at children

While outlining the detailed actions in her plan, Minister McEntee also said that achieving Zero Tolerance will require a commitment from every person in society


Government can and will lead the implementation of policy.  Through awareness-raising campaigns and education by parents and schools we can encourage cultural change. We can educate our children that hate is destructive and that sex is not degrading or violent.  But Government cannot call out inappropriate behaviour in the workplace or the WhatsApp group.


We cannot question the lewd comment nor ask if someone’s actions on the street at night are making the woman walking home on the path ahead feel unsafe.  It is for all of us to realise that we must in our everyday lives eradicate the social and cultural attitudes which can contribute to women feeling unsafe.


The Minister for Justice has led the development of Zero Tolerance strategy, with input from across Government, detailed consultation with the NGO sector and the public. The consultation process saw over 70 written submissions from community groups, over 1,200 responses from members of the public, as well as inputs from workshops which included children and specialist organisations working in the sector.


It also builds on a significant body of work from Minister McEntee in the area of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, including the enactment of Coco’s Law to tackle intimate image abuse and the implementation of the Supporting a Victim’s Journey Plan to put the victim at the centre of the criminal justice system.


The implementation of Supporting a Victim’s Journey has to date involved a number of significant reforms, including:


  • The introduction of pre-trial hearings to streamline the trial process and better support victims
  • The national rollout of Divisional Protective Services Units, which are specialised units within An Garda Siochána to deal with domestic, sexual and gender-based violence
  • The establishment of a new sexual offences unit in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions

Other reforms underway from Minister McEntee include:

  • The Sex Offenders Bill will strengthen the management and monitoring of sex offenders in the community.
  • Reforms to the law on the mandatory life sentence for murder to allow judges set a minimum number of years to be served.

  Notes: The €363 million budget is broken down as follows:  

Accommodation & Services



Tusla provision

€30m per annum


Capital costs new provision


Operating costs new provision

Cumulative total for annual operating costs


Development costs new provision

Includes project management support, staffing costs for establishment and safe homes





Implementation of DSGBV Strategy

DoJ Victims of crime funding


DoJ perpetrator and other programmes


Communications and awareness raising


Governance, monitoring, evaluation and training

Includes development of Governance and service standards, new DSGBV Strategy monitoring and sector involvement, Self-evaluation, training and service supports, intermediaries, and training.





Agency Costs



Rent, ICT, etc.


Consultancy for service design and data analysis






Legal Aid support for victims


Body worn cameras





Overall Total