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Clare Women’s Network faces uncertain future

Susan McKay, director of the National Women's Council of Ireland, is introduced to women from various Clare community groups by Elaine D'Alton, Clare Women's Network co-ordinator, during Susan’s visit to the Clare Women’s Network on the Clonroad, Ennis. Photograph by John KellyWomen in Clare will be left without a voice if the Clare Women’s Network is forced to close because of Government cutbacks, the director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Susan McKay has warned.

Speaking after visiting the Clare Women’s Network (CWN) offices in the Clonroad Business Park, Ms McKay criticised the cutbacks proposed for community and women’s groups as contained in the An Bord Snip Nua Report.
In an interview with The Clare Champion, Ms McKay said it seems as if the Government isn’t aware of the good value provided by women’s representative groups throughout the country.
“In many cases, women’s groups have one paid worker and dozens of volunteers, who all combine to do a huge amount of work so well in an integrated way that it is almost invisible.
“This work is being taken for granted and people will not miss it until it is gone. Women’s groups are not visible nationally, there are only 13% of women in the Dáil and overall women are not in positions of power where decisions are being made.
“The amount of money being paid to women’s groups is quite small and it will cost a lot more in the long run to fill the vacuum they leave behind if they are forced to close.
“The McCarthy Report is an accountant’s report written by economists and it does not examine the social costs of these cutbacks in the long-term,” she said.
In 2008, the CWN had their funding cut from €107,000 to €102,000 and last June the overall budget was cut to €88,000. In total, the CWN have had funding cuts of 14%.
In a meeting with the Minister for Community Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív within the last two weeks, the CWN were explicitly told a “considerable amount of CDPs (County Development Programmes) will be gone by next year”.
Further announcements were made this week by Minister John Curren, stating that CDPs will now be merged with the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme (LDSIP).
According to a statement issued by the CWN, this effectively means the network now faces closure in the near future, leaving women in Clare without a voice on issues affecting their lives, including violence, poverty, unemployment, health issues, mental health issues, childcare, parenting, isolation and access to training education.
“New issues and difficulties are arriving at women’s doors everyday, including debt and increases in domestic violence. The CWN see it as necessary to continue to highlight theses issues on behalf of women and the Government is now making it impossible to do so.
“Currently, there are no gender specific actions for women’s progression in County Clare and women are not adequately represented at decision-making level,” the group stated.
The group warned that women would be hardest hit by the €5.3 billion worth of cuts proposed in the McCarthy Report and would bear the brunt of the enormous social cost in terms of marginalisation, poverty and hardship.
The CWN has urged people to contact local county councillors and the four Oireachtas members to request  support in their campaign to save the project, which benefits women in Clare. “If these Government cuts go ahead, not only will the CWN be unable to support individual women to access training, information and education opportunities or refer women to specific services such as the domestic violence services, but a number of services will also be lost,” the group warned.


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