Source : Leah Farrell /

Over 100 women murdered in Ireland since 2012 - and a gap in data on gendered violence

New cross-European investigation with Noteworthy finds Ireland’s response to violence against women hindered by insufficient records.

By Maria Delaney & Patricia Devlin

THE PANDEMIC OF gender-based violence continues unabated, a new cross-European investigation has found.

Thousands of women continue to be murdered every year across the 28 EU countries examined, with over 14,000 women the victims of intentional homicide between 2012 and 2022.

During that time, almost 100 women were murdered in Ireland, according to gardaí figures released to Noteworthy by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). Last year, nine more women were murdered, according to Women’s Aid Ireland Femicide Watch.

That means over 100 women have lost their lives in a violent crime since 2012.

The mothers, sisters and daughters callously killed in those 10 years include 61-year-old grandmother Patricia O’Connor, whose dismembered remains were found scattered across the Dublin and Wicklow mountains in 2017.

Sonia Blount, a mum of one, was strangled and suffocated in a Dublin city hotel room in 2014.

In 2022, primary school teacher Ashling Murphy was brutally murdered as she went for a run in her Co Offaly hometown of Tullamore.

By the end of that same year, 32-year-old Natalie McNally was found stabbed to death in her Co Armagh home. She had been 15 weeks’ pregnant at the time.

Despite Ireland’s horrific death toll of women, the country stands out among its EU neighbours as having poor and incomparable data on intimate partner and family member violence.

WICKLOW BODY SEARCH 1868_90514720 Gardaí speaking to the media at the Sally Gap in 2017, near one of the locations in Wicklow Mountains where Patricia O'Connor's remains were found.
Source: Eamonn Farrell/

Noteworthy, the crowdfunded community-led investigative platform from The Journal, supports independent and impactful public interest journalism.

‘Without a doubt’ lack of data hinders response

Noteworthy was one of 15 independent newsrooms across Europe who took part in the ‘Femicides in Europe’ investigation, led by the Mediterranean Institute for Investigative Reporting (MIIR) and supported by the European Data Journalism Network (EDJNet).

Insufficient collection of data by Irish authorities has been criticised by an independent human rights monitoring body who said that this renders “the identification of gaps in the criminal justice response to violence against women impossible”.

This was one of many criticisms voiced by the Group of Experts on Action against Violence and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) in a report on Ireland last year.

Asked if the failure to collate data on intimate partner violence has hindered Ireland’s response to tackling violence against women Clíona Saidléar, executive director of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland said: “Without a doubt.” She added:

The collection of data is something that we are passionate about, because it’s how we make the issue visible, and it’s how we can hold accountable to different actors.

Worryingly, this comes as Ireland is recorded as one of only four EU countries to drop in its Gender Equality Index score last year. It dropped to 73, from 74.3 the previous year.

We put these issues to the Department of Justice but did not receive a response until a number of hours after the publication of this article.

A spokesperson said that key commitment of the government’s Zero Tolerance Strategy was the establishment of Cuan, a new statutory agency launched this year with a dedicated focus on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV). They added:

“The Government is very aware of the need for robust data in relation to the prevalence of DSGBV in Ireland and Cuan will have a specific data function.”

Though no response was received from An Garda Síochána also, last year Garda Commissioner Drew Harris stated “tackling domestic abuse is a key priority for An Garda Síochána and we take both domestic and sexual abuse very seriously”.

He also said that “greater reporting of domestic abuse that we have seen in recent years, have given us greater insights into victims and offenders” and that “this data is now informing how we prevent and detect these crimes”.

An environment of violence against women

Our investigation team found that, despite many hours trying to source it from authorities here, data on femicides as well as crimes committed by intimate partners and family members was either not available in Ireland or not comparable to other EU member states.

Ireland was one of just six EU member states where data on femicides couldn’t be compiled due to lack of statistics.

What is femicide? The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) defines femicide as “the killing of a woman by an intimate partner and the death of a woman as a result of a practice that is harmful to women”.

EIGE was one of the main sources of data for this investigation, alongside Eurostat and EDJNet’s network of newsrooms.

This is put more simply by Christelle Taraud, historian and feminist based in Paris who wrote a book on this recently. She said it is “the execution of a woman because she is a woman”.

Speaking to our investigative partners VoxEurop and Alternatives Economiques, she added:

For a man to kill a woman because she is a woman, he has to be in an environment where violence against women is generally governed by a regime of impunity and where the State – and its institutions – collaborate, actively or passively.

Over one in three female victims of intentional homicide across Europe were killed by an intimate partner, with data unavailable from a number of countries, including Ireland.

Based on the available data, there were over 4,200 victims of femicide in Europe between 2012 and 2022. However, does not provide the full picture, even for the countries that have provided data as statistics for this entire period were not always available.

Significantly, the investigation found that Cyprus experienced the biggest decrease (60%) in femicides during this time and it is the only EU country where femicide is recognised as a crime in its own right.

After publication, the Department of Justice spokesperson told Noteworthy:

Currently, Ireland has no particular laws in relation to femicide, a term which is not defined in the Irish legal system.

“Femicide as a descriptive or classifying term is not recognised by the Department or An Garda Síochána as it is open to different interpretation and thus cannot be measured accurately,” the spokesperson added.

Data on partner violence a ‘game changer’

The Istanbul Convention is a human rights treaty opposing violence against women which Ireland ratified in 2019. This calls for improved data collection by police authorities.

From 2022, data on selected crimes by current or former spouses are being collected.

Noteworthy obtained these garda statistics from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) which showed there were four women murdered in 2022 where the reported suspect was either a current or former spouse or partner.

Shockingly, there were also 297 attempts or threats to murder women, with the current or former partner reported (accused), as well as over 2,500 assaults and 406 harassment and related offences. Over 200 rape and over 100 sexual assault offences were also reported.

These statistics do not take into account crimes involving family members.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said that “An Garda Síochána and the CSO publish some statistical information on the relationship between the victim and perpetrator”.

“This information shows that where women are the victims of serious crimes, the perpetrator in the majority of cases is someone who is known to them.”

When murders, manslaughters and infanticides were retrospectively examined by the gardaí in 2022, they found that “on average over the last five years, where a female has been the victim… 79% were the victim[s] in a domestic abuse related incident”.

Violence against Women 010_90670172 Lisamarie Johnson at a protest in 2023. Her cousin Lisa Doyle was murdered by her fiancé in 2009.
Source: Leah Farrell/

A spokesperson for the gardaí told Noteworthy that “it is anticipated a further update to include data for 2022 and 2023 will be provided later this year, but this is dependent on verification of the data and further consultation”.

Rape Crisis Network Ireland’s Saidléar said this new data is “a game changer”, as it changes what traditionally “comes into people’s minds when you put out data on murder [which] is gangland murder and knife attacks. It’s your classic stranger danger stuff.”

Instead, “you suddenly get this picture where you’re like, actually, you’re talking intimate partner violence, you’re talking domestic violence”.

This “data is absolutely crucial”, Saidléar continued, as it transforms “how we think about this” and “what resources we put where”.

Though this is progress, our investigation found that these new Irish statistics were not comparable to data by other member states on intimate partner violence, violence by family members or EIGE indicators of gender-based violence.

These indicators were developed “to address to some extent the issue of data comparability”, according to EIGE’s Rosell, and “to guide the data collection efforts of the police and justice sectors in member states”.

As well as femicide, these included the total women victims of intimate partner violence, broken down by economic, sexual, psychological and physical.

Alarming increase in violence during pandemic

For the countries where this data was available, analysis by the investigative team found that violence against women by intimate partners has increased across Europe each year on average since 2014, rising from 166 victims per 100,000 women in 2014 to over 200 victims in 2018.

The highest number of women victims of intimate partner violence occurred in 2021, with almost 311 victims per 100,000 women.

The available data for 2022 shows a small drop, with an average of 231 victims per 100,000 women, while in 2023 the number is 164 but this was based on far fewer countries due to data not being available as yet.

This also confirms that violence against women in Europe increased alarmingly during the pandemic.

Irish data, however, did not contribute to these statistics due to it not being comparable across member states. Noteworthy put this to both An Garda Síochána (AGS) and the Department of Justice but did not receive a response in time for publication.

However, a spokesperson did refer us to what Garda National Protective Services Bureau head, Colm Noonan, said at the publication of the Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence report last year. He cited measures taken by AGS including “a strong focus on call-backs to victims of domestic abuse” and increased training for gardaí in this area. He said:

“Detailed analysis of these incidents “will inform us, at an operational level, on how we can build on the successful achievements of Operation Faoiseamh” which focuses on domestic abuse.

‘Inadequate response’ across Europe

Ireland is not unique, with a number of our EU investigative partners unable to contribute key data to the investigation. In fact, last month Fine Gael MEP Frances Fitzgerald said that “at present we have a most uneven, mixed and inadequate response to violence against women across Europe”.

When Swedish MEP Evin Incir, the European Parliament’s co-chief rapporteur on gender-based violence, was asked by our partners MIIR whether it should become mandatory for crime statistics to be updated and published annually, she said that “this is very important and was a big priority for the European Parliament”.

“Unfortunately, there was a lot of resistance from member states… However, in the end, we did manage to get something in – not enough but at least more than what several countries do now.”

Incir added that “this is important in terms of preventing rape, which is what all member states should aim for”.

Violence against Women 007_90670169 People calling for justice for Natalie McNally outside the Dáil last year. McNally was pregnant when she was stabbed in her home in 2022.
Source: Leah Farrell/

Data on Ireland will be published later this year, according to Cristina Fabre Rosell, gender-based violence team leader at EIGE.

She told our investigative partners at MIIR that the EIGE and the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) are “currently carrying out a survey on violence against women” in Ireland and seven other countries “in order to have comparable data”.

This is because Ireland alongside Germany, Czechia, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Hungary, Romania and Sweden “decided not to take part” in the EU gender-based violence survey coordinated by the statistical office of the EU, Eurostat.

The results of the survey that includes Ireland will be published in September, according to Rosell.

In addition to improved data collection, our investigative team asked a number of experts what can be done to address this ongoing pandemic of violence against women.

Early action by police is key, Rosell said. In some cases, for instance in Croatia where a lot of offences are “still considered misdemeanours”, she said that “criminalisation is good” as “we need to really see that this is a proper crime”.

“I don’t think that any act of violence against women should be misdemeanours.”

EIGE have made a number of recommendations on improving legal responses to counter femicide. These include police taking reports of intimate partner violence seriously, investing in support services, removing child custodies of perpetrators and monitoring the implementation of protection orders and convictions.

To address femicide in the short term, feminist author Christelle Taraud told our investigative partners:

“We must believe and protect women”.

Updated Mar 8th, 8:00 PM: To include Department of Justice response.

Read about the increasing incidence of rape and sexual assaults in Ireland >>


How stark is the undeclared war on women?

By Maria Delaney and Patricia Devlin of Noteworthy

Femicides in Europe is a data-driven investigation organised and coordinated by the Mediterranean Institute for Investigative Journalism (MIIR) within the framework of the European Data Journalism Network.

Noteworthy is the crowdfunded investigative journalism platform from The Journal, and was the Irish partner for this project. Data analysis and visualisations by Konstantina Maltepioti of MIIR. Data analysis check by EUrologus/HVG.

As well as Noteworthy and MIIR, other collaborators are: Alternatives Economiques (France), BIQdata/Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland), Delfi (Lithuania), Deník Referendum (Czechia), Dennik N (Slovakia), El Confidencial (Spain), EUrologus/HVG (Hungary), Le Soir (Belgium), OBC Transeuropa (Croatia), Pod črto (Slovenia), PressOne (Romania) and VoxEurop (Belgium, Italy, Luxemburg).

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