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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams initiates Suicide Debate in Assembly.

17 September, 2007


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA today spoke during a debate
on Suicide held as a result of a motion put down by Caral Ni
Chuilin and himself. Mr. Adams withdrew the motion in favour of a
position which Sinn Fein had agreed with the Chair of the Health
Committee last Thursday and which will see the Health committee
take this matter up as a priority issue.

However, the Speaker decided that the debate should go ahead. Mr.
Adams made two contributions.

He said:

This motion was first tabled in July.

It was introduced by Sinn Féin as a means of raising awareness
around the issue of suicide.

The motion came on the back of more reported suicides in west and
north Belfast, as well as in County Tyrone and in Craigavon.

A report in June into the suicide of Danny McCartan had found
serious failure of care by the Health Service, and another report
identified the over 60s as a group at serious risk of suicide.

For very legitimate reasons the motion could not be debated until now.

In the course of the summer more people died as a result of suicide.

The statistics are frightening. In 2006 291 people died by suicide
in the north and close to 500 in the south. That is, nearly 800
people took their own lives last year on this island.

And yet suicide is preventable. All of us can play a part in reducing it.

And this is especially true of those of us elected to this Assembly.

Ba choir do na hudarais ceannasiocht laidir a thaisp eannt ar an abhar seo.

One group that has demonstrated remarkable courage are the bereaved
families. Many of them have been to the fore in helping to prevent
the same tragedy engulfing others.

They deserve our respect and praise but they also deserve practical
assistance and public investment.

At grassroots, there is a lot of burnout. Support groups and family
networks are still not properly resourced.

It is a source of concern that so much of the money ring-fenced for
suicide prevention should be recycled through the Health Promotion
Agency.

It is a source of concern that there are still insufficient
community based services, too few psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists
and psychologists.

And it is a source of concern that most GPs do not yet have
dedicated training in suicide awareness and prevention.

Sinn Fein believes that civic society must be mobilised to respond.

There is a conference here next Monday September 24th to discuss this issue.

I have spoken with the Minister for Health, the Minister of
Education and the Chair of the Health Committee, as well as
representatives of other parties here.

The Health Committee Chair Iris Robinson proposed that the Health
Committee would take up Suicide as a priority issue and hold a
statutory committee investigation into it.

I commend this approach. We believe that this is a positive and
constructive proposal which has the potential to deliver
significant improvements to suicide prevention strategies.

Caral and I are pleased therefore to withdraw our motion in light
of this development.


After the Speaker had ruled that the debate would go ahead Mr.
Adams went on to say:

When a life is lost by suicide the shockwaves are felt beyond
those directly bereaved.

Perhaps that is because 3 out 4 people on this island have said
they know someone who has taken their own life.

Perhaps it is because every person who has died by suicide several
others have survived suicide attempts.

That amounts to a huge amount of trauma and pain much of it hidden.

Over the last 10 years reported suicides in Ireland have risen by
more than 25%.

North and west Belfast have been particularly affected. But other
areas have too.

Suicide has convulsed many local communities, exacerbating the
sense of powerlessness which people feel when faced with the
reality of a loved one taking their own life.

And when a series of suicides among young people take place in a
particular area parents live in great fear. Watching their children
and wondering.

The biggest killer of the next generation in Ireland is suicide.

Legislatures and governments must show leadership on suicide prevention.

We have the power to prioritise, to develop strategies and allocate
resources. We cannot abdicate our responsibility.

The number of recorded deaths by suicide on this island outstrips
deaths in raod traffic accidents.

There is an urgency and energy about road safety because so many
deaths are preventable.

We have safety training for drivers; safety devices in cars and
technology on our roads; road safety advice for school children;
road safety research; penalties for those who create road hazards;
millions are spent on public awareness advertising and there is an
increasingly integrated approach by statutory agencies and
government departments on an all-Ireland basis.

Should death by suicide not be given that same degree of intense
effort and resources?

In the past I have written to the Commissions on Human Rights and
on Children s Rights, north and south, to ask them to forge a
common way forward.

I am now writing to sporting and cultural organisations to explore
how suicide awareness can be made mainstream as well.

Suicide prevention can and should be integrated into all walks of life.

Consequently, Sinn Féin wants suicide prevention to be prioritised
across the island under the institutions of the North South
Ministerial Council.

If road safety, drug-trafficking, and foot-and-mouth disease can
all be designated as issues for all-Ireland action, then the same
can and must be done with suicide prevention.

We need to develop and implement specific actions targeted at
individuals identified as being at risk of suicide;
actions to assist people who have been bereaved through suicide;
actions to promote greater targeting of mental health resources
through schools, youth services, workplaces and the media; action
to address the serious shortage of counselling services for
adolescents and young adults;
and urgent action to ensure that the health system is able to
deal appropriately with those who present themselves at an A&E
having taken either drugs or alcohol.

We also need to address the role of the internet and its influence.
There have been stories relating the internet to suicide pacts and
methods of suicide.

It needs all of us working together around agreed common strategies and goals.

To repeat what I said earlier, I have spoken with the Minister for
Health, the Minister of Education and the Chair of the Health
Committee, as well as representatives of other parties here.

The Health Committee Chair Iris Robinson has proposed that the
Health Committee would take up Suicide as a priority issue and hold
a statutory committee investigation into it.

I commend this approach. We believe that this is a positive and
constructive proposal which has the potential to deliver
significant improvements to suicide prevention strategies.


Críoch

Note to editor- Gerry Adams MP MLA shall host a Conference on Suicide in the Long Gallery, Stormont, 24 September @11.30am
This cross party conference shall include the Minister for Health Michael Mc Gimpsey, the Minister for Education Caitríona Ruane, Dan Neville from the Institute of Suicidology, support groups, bereaved families and representatives from Leinster House.

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