The news that the long awaited sexual assault treatment unit, which is to be located in the city, is to open on Monday has been given a guarded welcome by a local city councillor and former vice chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum.
Cllr Catherine Connolly said there have been many previous “false starts” in relation to the opening date of the temporary facility, which will be located at Parkmore, and she was afraid to get her hopes up. A permanent unit will eventually be built on the Merlin Park complex.
“As a city councillor on the health forum I still have not received any official confirmation of the opening - despite having raised this matter at every single meeting of the forum for more than three years now. In these circumstances I am giving a very cautious welcome to the announcement of the opening of the unit.”
She said a specialised unit such as this is an “absolute necessity” given the prevalence of sexual assault and violence in the community.
“The Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland Study, (known as the SAVI Study ) carried out in 2002 - an internationally recognised piece of research - consulted over 3,000 randomly selected Irish adults. It found that 42 per cent of women and 28 per cent of men experienced some form of sexual abuse or assault in their lives.
“Particularly significant also was their finding that sexual violence in Ireland still remained one of the most under-reported and under-recorded of violent crimes. Given this background the absence of a dedicated sexual assault unit in Galway to date was an obscenity.”
Cllr Connolly said she is still awaiting official confirmation of the opening of the unit together with precise details, including the number of staff employed and the hours of opening.
“My other major concern is the temporary nature of the proposed unit. The promised permanent unit on the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital seems to have gone off the HSE West’s radar completely despite an announcement over two years ago that the Government had made capital funds available for the constructions of same.
“Of particular concern also is the fact that the HSE West are now renting another unit/premises which brings to over 70 units/premises that they are renting in the city and county. Two of the rented premises alone in the city cost the HSE West/taxpayer €1,200,000 every year in rent while they own vast acres of valuable land at Merlin Park.
“Even more worrying is the fact that some of the rented premises remain only partially used/occupied. Furthermore, it has come to my attention that the HSE West actually own further premises in the city which remain empty.”