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Adams - Harney has refused to meet Sinn Féin for the past 14 months to discuss an all-Ireland suicide prevention strategy

12 August, 2006

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has accused the Tánaiste and Minister for Health Mary Harney of 'consistently making excuses to avoid meeting Sinn Féin on the important and urgent issue of suicide and suicide prevention strategies.'  The Sinn Féin leader's criticism follows a year long effort by him to have a meeting with Ms Harney to discuss the issue of suicide and the need for an all-Ireland suicide prevention strategy.

Mr. Adams said:
"In recent years Sinn Féin has worked closely with bereaved families, voluntary groups and statutory agencies, to discuss strategies and the need for resources to tackle the suicide issue.

In May 2005 I wrote to the Minister for Health Mary Harney seeking a meeting to discuss an all-Ireland co-ordinated approach to this problem. In the intervening 14 months three more letters were sent to the Minister and over a dozen calls were made to her departmental office. No progress was made on securing a meeting.  Finally, several weeks ago I again wrote to the Minister. In a response received in recent days from her private secretary Ms Harney now says that due to diary commitments she is not in a position to meet me.

Diary commitments have not stopped her meeting other parties from the north on this issue.

This is unacceptable. There can be no justification the Minister's attitude.

In the last three years I have met all three British Ministers who have had responsibility for Health issues. In the last 14 months I have met two British Health Ministers, statutory agencies and others, including families, to discuss this issue, but Mary Harney refuses to meet me. Why? Is an Irish government Minister less concerned than a British Minister with the deaths of hundreds of Irish people, mainly young people, as a result of suicide?

The sad fact is that Ireland has the second highest incidence of suicide in Europe. There were 577 reported deaths by suicide across this island in the year 2003 to 2004. That death toll is greater than the number of people killed in traffic accidents in the same period. It is the biggest killer of young people in our country. According to a recent Joint Oireachtas Committee report there has been an alarming rise in the number of young people taking their lives. That makes suicide a national disaster. Our country urgently needs a national disaster plan.

I want to talk to the Minister about measures which can help save lives, provide resources to families and those at risk and co-ordinate the approach and resources of the two Health services on this island. It is time she overcame whatever problems she has and agreed to meet."ENDS

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