STORMONT ministers have voted unanimously in favour of a Private Members Bill that will ‘take immediate action to eliminate gender-based violence in our society”.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Jemma Dolan welcomed the Assembly’s support last Tuesday, March 23, for a motion calling for a strategy to combat violence against women and girls.

Speaking after the motion was backed unanimously, Dolan – who sits on the Justice Committee – said: “It is hard to believe that the North remains the only place on these islands without a strategy to tackle gender-based violence.

"I am pleased this motion calling for a strategy to combat violence against women and girls passed. We need to ensure that there is a zero-tolerance approach to gender-based violence in the policing and criminal justice system.

“Women and girls face regular violence in the form of domestic and sexual abuse, stalking, harassment and everyday misogyny and sexism.

“This is not just a criminal justice issue, it is a societal issue, and therefore it needs cross-Departmental action to tackle the underlying attitudes which cause gender-based violence.

“We now need to see action and the Executive must move to implement a strategy without delay,” she said.

The motion came to the Assembly floor last week following the murder-suicide that took place in Newtownabbey over the previous weekend, where Karen McClean (50) and Stacey Knell (30) were murdered by Kenneth Flanagan (26).

The motion was proposed by Sinead Bradley of the SDLP. The motion highlighted that Northern Ireland is the only place on these islands that does not have a specific strategy to tackle gender-based violence and abuse.

Bradley then called on the Minister of Justice, Naomi Long, and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to introduce a violence against women and girls strategy.

Gender-based violence has been again at the forefront of regional and national news coverage following the murder-suicide in Newtownabbey, and the murder of Sarah Everard in London.