Domestic violence refuge may be held up over probe terms

The former Magdalen Convent, Forster Street: conversion to a refuge for victims of domestic violence may be delayed.

Plans to convert the former Magdalen convent building on Forster Street to a domestic violence refuge could be delayed by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

A spokesperson for COPE Galway has said that the organisation has to “sit tight” to see if the terms of reference for the inquiry are expanded.

During a presentation on domestic violence at the Galway City Joint Policing Committee (JPC), Jackie Carroll, Outreach Worker with COPE Galway said the existing refuge at Waterside House is not fit for purpose due to overcrowding.

She said they have to wait and see if the inquiry is extended to include the Forster Street buildings.

City Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said he hoped it would only be a temporary hold-up, because the existing centre is “grossly overcrowded, wholly unsuited”.

Last May, permission was granted for conversion and extension of the former convent to a €2.5m domestic violence refuge which will provide nine self-contained residential units, staff accommodation, offices, outreach facilities, meeting rooms, playrooms and a childcare facility.

The ground floor will include independent living units, offices, meeting rooms and training rooms, while an extension will be built to house a teenage day area and playrooms. Outdoors, there will be a secure play area and a covered play area.

The first and second floors will include further independent living areas.

Ms Carroll told the meeting that in 2016, Waterside House worked with 314 individual women and 158 children. 82 families were admitted to the refuge, which is a 24-hour service, and 37 people were admitted to a couch-bed on an emergency basis.

However, the unit was unable to accommodate a further 204 women and 246 children.