Photo: Mary Doherty, Chairperson, Lifeline Inishowen

In Ireland, since the new year, two women, Jasmine McMonagle (Donegal) and Elzbieta Piotrowska (Louth) have been murdered in their homes.

Lifeline Inishowen Chairperson, Mary Doherty said her “heart and prayers” went out to the family of Jasmine McMonagle (27) following the mother of two’s death in an attack at her home in Killygordon.

Lifeline Inishowen provides a community response to support women and children experiencing domestic violence.

Speaking to Donegal Now, a clearly emotional Mary Doherty said she could not stop thinking about Jasmine McMonagle’s death and the events surrounding it.

Ms Doherty also welcomed last week’s introduction of new domestic violence legislation, which created the offence of coercive control, psychological abuse in an intimate relationship that causes fear of violence, or serious alarm or distress.

In a wide-ranging interview, Ms Doherty called for the introduction of “right to know” legislation, which would enable people to find out if their partner had a history of domestic violence.

Mary Doherty said: “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of Jasmine McMonagle. I haven’t stopped thinking about Jasmine’s death and the events surrounding it since it happened.

“I would like to take this opportunity to highlight to other women out there the message: ‘Please use the services that are available throughout the country. It doesn’t have to be the organisation that is closest to you. There are other services there.’ It is so, so important.

“Unfortunately, there is a need for these services and it is for women to be aware that there are services there and that they can support you in whatever you need at the time.

“Lifeline Inishowen operates a Helpline (074 93 73232) and a Drop-in. We also provide counselling services to women and children,” said Mary Doherty.

According to Ms Doherty, Lifeline Inishowen “walks the journey” with the women who use its services.

She said: “What we do is walk the journey with the woman, whatever she wants. It is her choice. Lifeline Inishowen will walk that journey with her, to enable her to move on with her life.

“It’s not easy. It’s a hard journey and there’s no doubt about it, there’s a lot of change but it is a change for the better.

“Usually what happens is that the woman will ring our Helpline first, then we will invite her to call in to meet with the support worker. Just call in and tell her story. At the Beginning she mightn’t just know what she wants but it is up to her. Whenever the time’s right, she’ll tell us what she’d like.

“Lifeline Inishowen will give a woman the options available to her and then she makes the decision what she wants to do. If she wants to go back again, we still support her. It is just about letting women know we are there, if we are needed,” said Mary Doherty.

Lifeline Inishowen will advocate on the woman’s behalf with all agencies. However, Ms Doherty said, the organisation does not “do it for her.”

She said: “A woman has to do it herself because if Lifeline Inishowen did it for her, we would be taking control of her life. We allow her to take control of her own life and what she wants to do. We will be with her through that journey. If she needs contact the Garda, we are quite happy to go with her or to the Housing or Social Welfare, any of these services that she will need at that time.

“Christmas is very emotional for everybody and I think, because most women want to keep things together, whatever it is about Christmas or any other big family occasion.

“Christmas can be very hard for people and they don’t want to it to be spoiled for their family or their friends. They aren’t focussing so much on themselves but on everybody else, to keep things together.

“I find that now, after Christmas, in January and February time, is when reality seems to hit in. Christmas can escalate abuse and the woman will wait until things have calmed down before contacting us. They have to get their head around it,” said Ms Doherty.

Welcoming the Government’s new coercive control legislation, Mary Doherty said the campaign for its introduction had been going on for 15 years.

She added: “I think the coercive control legislation is fantastic. It is something that we have all been looking for 15 years. Women’s Aid and Safe Ireland have been fighting hard for it.

“Before this, it would have been very hard to for a woman to go to court unless she had bruises or marks, whereas now, please God, this will be the change, if they can prove coercive control.

“I would also like to see the introduction of ‘right to ask’ legislation.’ It is available in the North and enables people to find out if their partner had a history of domestic violence.

“Without a doubt there is a pattern of abusers moving from partner to partner and continuing the abuse. There’s proof of that. Abusers come out of one relationship and go into the next one. I sometimes think the abuse might actually escalate as they go along. It repeats. It’s a controlling factor. It’s about power and control over another person and they go from one relationship to another,” said Mary Doherty.

The seasoned community activist said she wanted to highlight the message: ‘Anyone out there who has been or is being abused, please contact the services.’

Mary Doherty said: “Please. It is so important. Hopefully, it would prevent anything like Jasmine’s death happening again.

“Lifeline Inishowen has the greatest community support. Only for our community, we wouldn’t be here. The thing about it is, we have the greatest volunteers and in the community in general is always behind our fundraising.

“Each year we think, ‘We can’t do this any more’ but t the community will come forward with more fundraising.

“This is a good opportunity for me to thank the community for enabling Lifeline Inishowen to keep going.” said Mary Doherty.

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Now editorial team. Between 9am and 5pm Monday to Sunday please call 074 9112712. Between 5pm and midnight please call or text 086 792 2103. Or you can email [email protected] at any time.