Hundreds march in Clonmel to demand restoration of acute psychiatric hospital beds in Co. Tipperary

Aileen Hahesy

Reporter:

Aileen Hahesy

Tipp Fight for Mental Health Services

Tipp Lives Matter one of the slogans that featured in the march for better mental health services in Tipperary in Clonmel on Saturday.

Hundreds of people marched through Clonmel town centre yesterday (Saturday) afternoon in support of the campaign to restore Tipperary's acute in-patient hospital unit for people suffering from mental illness.
Many of the county's TD and councillors joined relatives of people with pyschiatric illness in taking part in the march organised by Tipperary's Fight For Mental Health Services group.
More than 500 people took part in the march, which began at Clonmel's Main Guard and was led by four people pushing a hospital bed with the slogan. "Tipperary Lives Matter" emblazoned on the white bed covers. 
Protesters chanted that they "wanted hospital beds now" as the demonstration proceeded down the Quay in Clonmel, through the West Gate and up O'Connoll Street to the rally point at the Main Guard.
First to address the crowd was Fr Michael Toomey of Clonmel's SS Peter & Paul's Parish, who recently met with Minister of State with responsibility for Mental Health Jim Daly and highlighted with him his serious concerns about mental health facilities in Co. Tipperary since the closure of St Michael's Psychiatric Unit in Clonmel in 2012.
Fr Toomey condemned the fact there wasn't a single acute psychiatric bed in Co. Tipperary despite the fact Tipperary has the highest suicide rate outside of Dublin, and recent figures show that Clonmel has been hit by suicide more per capita than the rest of the country outside of Dublin. 

He pointed out St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny where Tipperary pyschiatric patients requiring hospital admission are sent, has been deemed "totally inadequate and recently fined for its appalling conditions".

"To those in government and agencies who run and manage these health departments I can only say, from where I am standing in my ministry, and from everyone gathered here today across all of our society: this is simply not good enough. It is inhumane."

Psychiatrist Dr Alan Moore, who was a consultant at the former St Michael's Acute Psychiatric Unit in Clonmel, called on Minister Daly to deliver on his promise to deliver acute psychiatric in-patient beds for this county before he retires from political life.

"Jim Daly knows we have an undeniable special case for investment, for rescue now. At the last (deputation) visit to see Minister Daly in July, he repeated his commitment to bringing back beds to Tipperary," said Dr Moore. 

"And at that meeting he directed his government officials to get the crisis house built and to lift the recruitment moratorium on posts which have been held up for months and months by the ban on appointing vitally needed staff. Several of these have been interviewed and appointed but are awaiting the go ahead to work.

"We are today holding the Minister to account to deliver on his promises before he leaves his job so that his legacy can be a positive one in Tipperary. We deserve nothing less, he declared.

Caroline Lonergan from Cahir gave a moving address at the rally about her brother who died by suicide after making repeated attempts to get the medical help he needed in the two weeks prior to his death. She called for the HSE to implement a list of recommendations made by the jury who deliberated at her brother's inquest.

Tipperary Fights for Mental Health Services representatives Dan Connolly and Maurice Cagney also gave speeches.

More detailed reporting and photo coverage of the march will be published in this week's edition of The Nationalist available in all local shops on Wednesday.