As we go to print, Brexit negotiations are reaching fever pitch. Theresa May is grappling with a choice that may set the Northern Irish peace process back decades, or risk breaking up the United Kingdom.
It’s a subject Greg O Shaughnessy tackles with candour in this week’s column. He reminds us that referendums are not legally binding in the UK. In the final count, 52% voted Leave, while 48% voted Remain. And yet, the British government proceeded to make “life-changing decisions” on the basis of a margin of 13-12.
He points to the first-past-the-post system as a serious problem, leading to divisions like this. It would explain why Scotland and even London – both of which voted overwhelmingly to Remain – are now calling for similar exceptions to those being proposed for Northern Ireland. It might also explain why the DUP – a party which has voiced almost medieval anti-Catholic, anti-gay and anti-liberal rhetoric – can lead six counties with a 48% Catholic population, and is today wielding their peculiar power over the entire United Kingdom.
This edition’s Focus is an analysis of mental healthcare in Ireland, a subject that we have all been shocked into finally addressing, with the recent death of an eleven-year-old girl from suicide.
Photographs of Milly Tuomey show a beautiful child with big blue eyes and a gentle smile. She loved figure-skating and playing the piano. Like many pre-teens, she kept a diary, writing of her plans to become a ‘famous doctor’.
She had also, however, chosen the date of her death.
Realising their daughter was deeply unwell, her terrified parents made every effort to get her professional help, frantically moving between health care providers in an effort to save her. The public waiting list was too long, so they sought private care. They were eventually diverted back to the HSE on 8 December, but again they had to wait for an appointment, until 5 January.
Sadly, it was too late for Milly, who committed suicide in her family home on 1 January 2016.
Following the inquest, her devastated parents Fiona and Tim Tuomey expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of clinical help for children in a mental health crisis. “In 21st century Ireland this is simply not acceptable.” They are absolutely right.
Mary O’Keeffe writes in her analysis that an estimated one in ten Irish people suffer from mental health difficulties, and recent figures show that Limerick city has the highest suicide rate in the country, by a significant margin. In 2016, almost one in 10 people who presented to Emergency Departments (ED) following a self-harm incident, left before receiving specialist assessment. The Irish Medical Times reports that 16 people died last year, having visited early visited an ED for help with mental illness.
When coupling these stark figures with the near-constant overcrowding and lack of in-patient beds in University Hospital Limerick, it becomes clear that this is a true crisis; one that puts our most vulnerable citizens at risk.
Elsewhere, Christine Costello interviews Mick Dolan, the much-respected music promoter, for People Like Us, and Bernard McNamara takes us back to the 1936 Olympics in his sporting column.
Martin Mullins filed his copy from Buenos Aires, offering a fascinating insight into the current political situation in Argentina. In his motoring column, Brian O’Cadhla looks across the Irish Sea, examining if falling residual values in the UK will mean cheaper, more plentiful cars for us in Ireland.
It may be one very small advantage, for us at least, to what is likely to be an annus horribilis for our closest neighbours.
If you have been affected by any issues raised in this editorial, please contact The Samaritans on their free helpline number at 116 123. Texts can be received at 087 260 9090.