THE founder of Britain’s first women’s refuge has backed Cardiff council deputy leader over controversial remarks about anti-domestic violence charities that led to him being suspended from Plaid Cymru.
Fairwater councillor Neil McEvoy posted comments on Twitter and Facebook accusing two Welsh women’s groups of perpetrating “publicly funded child abuse”.
Both organisations – Welsh Women’s Aid and Safer Wales – reacted angrily to the councillor’s remarks, accusing him of spreading a hate campaign against them based on unsubstantiated allegations.
Although Coun McEvoy has apologised publicly for the emotive nature of his language, he has not withdrawn his central accusation that they have helped women to defy court orders.
Now Erin Pizzey, who founded the first women’s refuge in London in 1971 and is the author of several books on domestic violence, has sprung to Coun McEvoy’s defence.
In a letter to the Echo, she said she supported Coun McEvoy and that in her experience some women were as violent “as the men they left”.
“I believe, and there are many people and organisations that support my belief, that domestic violence is not a gender issue but is directly as a result for some children of being born into violent and dysfunctional families,” she wrote. Ms Pizzey said she was “horrified” Coun McEvoy had been suspended for voicing concerns “that have been raised by many people and organisations over the years”.
“I also believe that to separate children from a much loved parent without any serious evidence is akin to abuse of that child,” she continued.
“I have always been critical of the Women’s Aid general policy of banning men from working within the refuges and refusing to allow boys over the age of 12 refuge – this applies in most refuges. Why deny male children refuge?
“We live in a democratic society and Mr Mc-Evoy has a right to his opinion and to express his doubts. If the Welsh Assembly are seriously concerned with the issue of domestic violence as I know they are then I ask that this man be given a platform to make his case and his suspension lifted.
“I support Mr McEvoy’s statement and I am writing to you to put on record that I am ashamed to think that there is a cabal of members in the Assembly who want to silence him without a just cause.”
Coun McEvoy last night told the Echo he was pleased to have received the support of Ms Pizzey. Neither Welsh Women’s Aid nor Safer Wales wished to comment on Ms Pizzey’s letter of support.
But last week Paula Hardy, chief executive of Welsh Women’s Aid, said: “The comments posted by Coun McEvoy and the outrageous and unsubstantiated claims he makes are the latest in a two-year campaign of hatred against Welsh Women’s Aid and our member groups that provide vital and lifesaving services to women and children throughout Wales.”
Ms Hardy’s comments were endorsed by Barbara Natasegara, chief executive of Safer Wales.
On Saturday, a membership panel of Plaid Cymru’s national executive committee will decide what penalty, if any, should be imposed on Coun McEvoy.
His suspension from the party has also seen him stripped of his role as leader of the Plaid group on Cardiff council.
Meanwhile, a fresh row has erupted over comments about Children’s Commissioner Keith Towler put on Coun McEvoy’s Facebook site by supporters of the Real Fathers for Justice group.
Mr Towler was a member of the Family Justice Review panel, which last month published a report which failed to satisfy Real Fathers for Justice. One supporter of the group, Jem Pogue, wrote on Coun McEvoy’s site: “(You) can tell Towler that he is now very much a legitimate target for all fathers’ rights groups.”
Another group supporter posted Mr Towler’s address on Coun McEvoy’s site, where it remained for more than a month.
Cardiff council Labour group spokeswoman Cerys Furlong said: “I wasn’t previously aware of the comments relating to the Children’s Commissioner, but it’s scandalous to publish personal details in this way.”
Responding, Coun McEvoy said: “I only censor postings if they are racist, sexist or homophobic. It’s a free forum, so far as I’m concerned.”
He subsequently said he would be taking down the address.
A spokeswoman for Mr Towler confirmed he was aware his address had been posted on the site, but said he did not wish to comment.