In an interview with Justine McCarthy in the Irish edition of The Sunday Times on 18 June 2017, David Walsh of Men’s Voices Ireland issued a call for lawyers to act pro bono in a legal challenge against new legislation that threatens men with eviction from their homes – without them being convicted or even being charged with any wrongdoing.
Men’s Voices Ireland says that the proposed Domestic Violence Bill 2017 undermines property rights guaranteed under the Irish Constitution and that men could be ejected from their homes by new girlfriends with no ownership stake.
“Given the near-automatic presumption in domestic violence cases that the man is guilty and the woman is the victim, we fear that men could be evicted from their homes after a relationship of only a few weeks.”
The bill provides for emergency barring orders for people in “intimate and committed relationships.” The order can last for up to eight working days. At present, court safety and barring orders are restricted to spouses, and cohabiting partners with a 50% share in the home.
“The bill doesn’t say what an ‘intimate and committed’ relationship is,” said David Walsh, MVI’s chairman.
“We fear a barring order could be issued after someone has been in a relationship for only a few weeks, and people could find themselves evicted from their own homes. Our fear is this kind of legislation allows for abuse. In Spain, a domestic violence law was enacted in 2004 and has led to a spate of false accusations.
“There is lots of evidence to show there is an automatic presumption in domestic violence cases that the man is guilty and the woman is the victim. We would welcome the help of legal people who might be prepared to challenge the bill’s constitutionality.”
The bill is part of Ireland’s ratification of the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on violence against women. Article 52 of the Convention empowers the state to remove a perpetrator from the home to protect anyone at risk of immediate danger, including parents of non-dependent adult offspring.
Máire Whelan, the former attorney-general, advised the government in 2014 that the emergency order measure could conflict with property rights enshrined in the constitution. Frances Fitzgerald, then the justice minister, said she intended to introduce legislation to let Ireland sign the convention. “I want Ireland to deal with this; it’s an extremely serious issue,” she said. “Lives are destroyed by domestic violence. We need to support women in their homes.”
The online version of the Sunday Times article is available here. (Registration required.)
The online version is accompanied by a picture from the Alamy library of stock images which shows a man threatening a woman. In the interest of fairness and balance, here are some samples from the same photo library showing instances of women threatening and assaulting men.