Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Implementation of Suicide Prevention Strategy remains urgent - Adams

20 September, 2006

Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Gerry Adams welcomed the first meeting of the Implementation Group for the Regional Suicide Prevention Strategy, chaired by Mr Colm Donaghy, which is being held today. Mr. Adams urged the speedy and effective implementation of the regional suicide prevention strategy and a co-ordinated all-Ireland approach to this issue.

Mr Adams said:

"Suicide across the island has become the biggest killer of our young people. In the last decade the incidence of suicide in Ireland has increased by more than 25%. In 2003/04 there were 577 people who died through suicide, more than the death rate as a result of road traffic accidents.

"That is why Sinn Féin has been campaigning for a suicide prevention strategy in the north, as well as on an all-island basis.

"Sinn Féin believes that the paper produced by the Department of Health, ŒProtect Life -a Shared Vision‚≠ is an important first step in tackling suicide. It emerged as a result of much lobbying by bereaved relatives and Sinn Féin. The key now is delivery. We need to see the implementation of this approach.

"Our concerns about the detail of the strategy, its funding and the timetable for its implementation were raised with Paul Goggins, the Minister for Health during the summer. Among the concerns raised was the allocation of funds to west and north Belfast in the community support package for suicide prevention. After speaking to Paul Goggins, the first allocation of resources from Department of Health was increased to £200k between now and next March to reflect the disproportionate needs of west and north Belfast in relation to risk of suicide.‰

"Sinn Féin views the input of bereaved families and friends as crucial to the oversight and implementation of the strategy. A representative and effective Implementation Group and a strong Families Forum are key to this. Sinn Féin has also proposed that there needs to be a separate mechanism for allowing families to meet the Minister on a regular basis to update him on progress.

"There have been discussions about a new telephone help-line and the introduction of proper training and protocols for health professionals to care for individuals and families affected by suicide. Plans underway for an information campaign on an all-Ireland basis are welcome. I hope to meet again soon wit Paul Goggins on these issues. Sinn Fein wants to see harmonisation and integration of strategies on suicide prevention on an all-Ireland basis." ENDS

Note to Editors

The campaign for a regional suicide prevention strategy in the six counties and on an all-Ireland basis has now been ongoing since 2004:

August 2004 - Gerry Adams, MP, wrote to Angela Smith on the issue of suicide prevention

October 2004 - Gerry Adams lead a delegation of Sinn Fein and community activists to meet with Angela Smith. Amongst the proposals tabled was the creation of a regional suicide prevention strategy and that the Department of Health take the lad role in prioritising suicide prevention in its own budgetary priorities for action.

December 2004 - SF met with the Irish joint secretary of the North-South Ministerial Council to discuss how suicide prevention could be made an Area of Co-operation

February 2005 - a roundtable meeting requested by Gerry Adams between SF, Dept. of Health and others was held in City Hall. At this, Dept. of health announced a regional sub- group was being formed to look at suicide prevention.

March 2005 - SF met with the Children's Commissioner in the north and urged his office to join forces with the Ombudsman for Children in the 26 counties.

April 2005 - North and West Health & Social Services Trust, with whom SF had been meeting in preceding months, convened an event to set up a task group to develop area specific proposals on suicide prevention for north and west Belfast

April 2005 - families began to hold protests at N&W Trust and Eastern Board meetings at lack of progress

May 2005 - Gerry Adams wrote to Mary Harney and requested a meeting on suicide prevention. Correspondence and communication has continued since with no reply from M.Harney. A freedom of information request submitted by G.Adams office to M.Harney's department is pending.

June 2005 - Sinn Fein held an event at Stormont to launch the campaign for a regional suicide prevention strategy. By this time, Angela Smith had been replaced by Shaun Woodward.

June 2005 - Sinn Fein and families met with Shaun Woodward. Afterwards, he announced that the regional sub-group was to be made a regional Task Force and would have the creation of a suicide prevention strategy as its remit.

October 2005 - Dept of health indicates that suicide prevention will be a priority for action in its interim budget bid. Around that time, SF met with the regional Task Force chaired by Colm Donaghy and made representations to him on the components of any new strategy.

January 2006 - regional Task Force made its final report to Shaun Woodward including recommendations for a regional suicide prevention strategy and an all-Ireland approach. It also highlighted that west Belfast, followed by north Belfast, were indeed the constituencies with the highest rate of suicide over a 5 year longditudinal study of official statistics.

March 2006 - Shaun Woodward published 'Protect Life - a shared vision'. A suicide prevention strategy and action plan 2006-2011‚. He also ringfenced money for suicide prevention.

March - June 2006 , consultation was organised on the draft strategy. SF made a submission to this consultation process. Also during this period, Ogra Shinn Fein organised a campaign for an all-Ireland approach to suicide prevention.

July 2006 - Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Gerry Adams lead a delegation to meet with Paul Goggins on the final suicide prevention strategy. The Dept. of Health later increased the first allocation of resources for the strategy to west and north Belfast after Mr Adams made a phonecall to Paul Goggins.

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