Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has described domestic, sexual and gender-based violence as "heinous" crimes, telling the Dáil that it has "not been as easy as I would have liked" to meet victims due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, she expressed determination to "meet people in person", saying to victims: "I urge them to reach out - when it is safe to do so."

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said such violence was an "epidemic in our society", adding part of that was due to its "insidious" nature.

She said it was "shameful" that Ireland is the only EU country which is party to the Istanbul Convention and seeks to provide one shelter space for every 10,000 people, rather than 10,000 women.

Her colleague Martin Kenny said the Government needed to provide adequate training for gardaí, saying the "unfortunate experience of victims is that many have felt let down".

Labour's Duncan Smith said the increase in reports of domestic violence during the pandemic was "not a surprise" to people dealing with abuse - because "victims have nowhere to go".

Independent Galway TD Catherine Connolly said the Government can't "talk about domestic violence" unless there is a "safe place for women to go to". She called on Ms McEntee to make that her "number one priority".

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said it was an "utter disgrace" that 63 organisations were providing different forms of assistance to victims - she said the provision of such care was a "fundamental role of State services".

The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O'Gorman, said €30m will go towards domestic, sexual, and gender based violence next year through funds allocated to Tusla.

Mr O'Gorman said he and his department officials had engaged with senior Tusla management regarding its business plan for next year. The child and family agency received an extra €61m in Budget 2021, bringing its total funding to total of €878m.

The Minister told the Dáil he already made it clear that he wanted to focus investment on services supporting the most vulnerable in the community, particularly during Covid-19.

Commending organisations that are working on the frontline, Mr O'Gorman noted specific risks to victims of domestic violence during the pandemic - such as social isolation and the particular vulnerability of DSGBV victims, which presents additional challenges in accessing supports.

He said that over 75% of referrals to Tusla social workers involve domestic violence, and he strongly supports the work of Tusla and its funded service providers.

Mr O'Gorman also took the opportunity to condemn image-based violence, saying that under no circumstances should any photographs of an intimate or sexual nature be shared online without the consent of the individual involved.

He said the sexual exploitation happening online is incredibly harmful to those whose images have been shared into groups and posted online.

He described it as a violation of privacy and intimacy at the highest level and said there must be a "zero-tolerance approach to revenge porn and any abuse of this nature."

Labour's Duncan Smith described it as "degenerate and scummy."

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns said: "I would like to send a clear message to anyone whose images have been shared without your consent - it is not your fault; you didn't do anything wrong; and you're not to blame." 

However she added: "... despite warnings by campaigners, image-based sexual abuse is still not a crime here. So these violations of women have been facilitated by inadequate policy and inaction." 

Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond said men needed to call out the sharing of intimate images without consent.

He said the practice was "absolutely abhorrent" and men needed to say: "You are sharing the personal private details of a friend or someone's sister or daughter."

Additional reporting by Ailbhe Conneely