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Uncertainty over Taoiseach’s commitment to develop FGM plan

No progress has been made on establishing a national committee to develop an action plan on female genital mutilation (FGM), despite strong indications of support from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last year.

Minister of State for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne wrote to the Taoiseach in July 2018 following a meeting with representatives from a national steering committee on FGM.

The representatives were seeking funding for a network of community health workers and NGOs to work with affected communities and to establish a “Government-led inter-agency committee to develop a National Action Plan to address FGM”. In her letter, Minister Byrne said she wanted the Department of Health to “take a more active role on FGM”.

Last August, a Department of An Taoiseach spokesperson said the Taoiseach had indicated his support.

However, the Department of Health has provided no firm commitment on progressing an action plan.

A Department spokesperson said the HSE has funded and disseminated an FGM resource pack for health professionals. The Executive also provides funding to the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) for a specialist clinic and to migrant women’s organisation AkiDwA for work with at-risk communities.

The second HSE intercultural health strategy, launched in January, commits to raising public awareness on FGM and training healthcare and other frontline professionals.

According to the Department, Minister Byrne supports this work and discussions regarding further actions are continuing.

An IFPA spokesperson welcomed the “ongoing support of the HSE”.

However, they said co-ordinated action was needed by key Government departments, State agencies and civil society.

According to the IFPA, a national action strategy is required to address issues such as protection of girls and women at risk; provision of services and support; prosecution under legislation; and promotion of efforts to eradicate FGM globally.

It is a criminal offence to perform FGM, or to remove a girl or woman from the State for that purpose, under the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012.

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