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Families bereaved through suicide make their voices heard in Europe

4 October, 2005

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún is today hosting an all Ireland delegation of families bereaved through suicide at the European Parliament in Brussels. Approximately 20 people travelled to Brussels this morning.

Accompanying the delegation today are community workers, Sinn Féin Health Spokespersons John O'Dowd MLA, Caoimghin O'Caolain TD and Councillor Fra McCann MLA.

Speaking from Brussels the former Assembly Health Minister said:

"I want to pay tribute to all of those who have travelled to Brussels this morning, to participate in a day of events to raise awareness around the issue of suicide and suicide prevention in Ireland and at a European level. The delegation will meet with representatives of Mental Health Europe and of EuroHealthNet, Professor Berlinguer MEP, Gay Mitchell MEP, Kathy Sinnott MEP and Sinn Féin MEPs Bairbre de Brún and Mary Lou McDonald, as well as an official from the Irish Government representation to the EU, and a representative from the office of Mairead McGuinness MEP.

"Those people travelling on the delegation come from right across Ireland and from both a rural and urban background. It is clear from discussions with the group that they require greater support from the statutory agencies. Mental health services north and south are grossly under funded. Sinn Féin has consistently argued that suicide prevention should become an area of cooperation under the Good Friday Agreement, to promote a joint strategy across the island.

"Not enough is being done in Ireland to highlight or combat suicide. One conservative estimate is that more than 4,000 people have died through suicide between 1969 and 2002 in the Six Counties, significantly more than have died as a result of the political conflict over 35 years. The hope is that today's visit to Brussels will help lead to an understanding of how other EU states deal with the issue and how best practice can be applied in Ireland. Whilst the recent announcement of a taskforce in the 26 counties is welcome, we want to see an all Ireland strategy and an all Ireland taskforce on suicide prevention.

"Less than one month ago (September 10th), people across the globe marked World Suicide Awareness Day, in memory of all of those who have tragically lost their lives. The most fitting tribute we can pay is to ensure that present and future generations receive the help and support they require and deserve."

Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Gerry Adams welcoming the delegation visit to Brussels said:

"In Ireland, the increase in suicide across the 32 counties has been higher that in most other European countries. This is an important initiative which will help draw additional attention to this serious problem. The all Ireland delegation reflects the imperative of an all-Ireland approach to tackling this issue. Sinn Fein believes that suicide prevention must be promoted in an integrated, holistic strategy which is resourced and implemented as one across the 32 counties. No political or legal obstacle should be put in the way of all-Ireland action on suicide prevention. ENDS

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