MLAs not listening to concerns over mental health services

I am a carer and a mother of a son who attends Everton mental health day recovery centre. I read a letter from Sam Sloan (October 16) and wish to clarify a couple of things.  

A meeting was held on August 4 for carers and service users at Everton where we were told that Everton and Whiterock day centres may close.  Grown men and women were in tears and got very distressed at the thought of their centre closing. 

We were told that service users would be going to Ravenhill. 

Then another meeting on August 24 August told us different. The mental health services manager said that Ravenhill would become a staggered service and that most service users at Everton and Whiterock – after assessment – would be sent into a community context. What that entails sounds to me like they would be ferried all over the place. It was not explained. That ‘assessment’ has already started. At least one service user has lost their place at Ravenhill and another has lost their place at Everton while another has had their days cut. This happening is very strange as one of the reasons for closure given by the mental health services manager is that people no longer want to be referred to day centres... while at the same time service users who wish to stay are being discharged.

I believe by the time the consultation by the trust ends – which is the end of November – many service users could have already lost their place or had days cut.

I have a petition going and all service users at Everton signed it to try to keep Everton open. We need this service. It is a cross-community centre which has great staff. 

I agree with Sam that mental health is a growing problem. It will not go away. What are we to do without our services? What will happen to the vulnerable service users who want to keep their centre? What extra stress will be put on carers as service users are becoming worried about what will happen to them. Why are MLAs not doing something about this instead of in and out at Stormont.  My son never went out of the house. Then he went to Everton and found he was able to communicate with people. He was never judged and his confidence returned. He goes two days a week. He would go five if allowed. And I know others at Whiterock, Ravenhill and Everton feel the same.

A meeting is being held at Grosvenor House, 5 Glengall Street, on November 3 at 7pm. Service users, carers and anyone who wishes to know what is happening are invited. The mental health service managers will be there and we will all get a chance to ask questions. We need to speak for service users who find it difficult to speak for themselves.  Politicians – are you listening?


Belfast BT15

Unionism can’t deal with nationalist non-violent politics

There is probably nothing better to highlight the dichotomy at the heart of Northern Ireland than the announcement of the establishment of a ‘Loyalist Community Council’ to help bring the unionist paramilitaries away from violence. Then we hear that from their ‘ceasefire’ of 1994 they have killed more than 50 people. That is almost three per year. Doesn’t sound like much of a ceasefire. On the other hand we have the shouting and stamping of feet and the pulling down of institutions at the mere mention of the IRA. The revolting thing is that unionists can see no problem with this, can see no dichotomy and earnestly stand in front of a camera and proclaim that the only problem we have is IRA violence. There is something revolting in all this.

From the time of the Troubles it has always been plain that unionist violence carried out by their cohorts in the LVF, UVF etc is somehow not as bad as the violence of the IRA. There was always an excuse for the killing of Catholics. If you cast your mind back we were told that this or that Catholic man was shot in reaction to some IRA atrocity – loyalist murders were never quite as bad and really, deep down, we could all understand why they did what they did.

The establishment of the ‘Loyalist Community Council’ clearly shows that such a mind-set still exists. While the great and the good are holding the whole country to ransom over accusations against the IRA, the silence of unionists about the ‘Loyalist Community Council’ speaks volumes.

Unionism is not going to change. The very foundation of unionism is that Catholics are in some way inferior, so we have to find a way of working around their intransigence. They are obviously uncooperative and unwilling members of the Stormont coalition. However, all attempts to bring back some form of majority rule must be resisted. Unionism will use any method possible to re-ignite IRA violence, thus giving them the opportunity to resist all political progress. Unionism cannot deal with nationalist non-violent politics, particularly an educated, organised Catholic political force.

Somehow the nationalist parties have to find a way of progressing Catholic equality and education no matter how silly and ridiculous the unionist objections become. We are not going to have an integrated society simply because the people of the country do not want to integrate.

There is a great challenge here for nationalist politicians – how do we move on in spite of a resentful and nay-saying majority in Stormont?

One thing is certain, any diminution of our Irish identity or Catholic faith shall only be seen as signs of weakness by those who still want to dominate. Holding on to our Catholic education and principles, as well as our Irish tradition and culture, is the best defence we have.


Portglenone, Co Antrim

Stop diluting our culture

I would like to comment on the excellent article by Tom Kelly on the GAA (October 16). I totally agree with everything he said regarding suggestions made by Jarlath Burns on the playing of our national anthem and removal of our national flag from GAA matches. Does Mr Burns not realise that for years the only thing that kept us in touch with our Irish Identity was going to GAA matches and hearing our national anthem being played and see our flag flying, we could for a short time feel that we could experience our Irishness in a remote Gaelic pitch without ‘offending’ our unionist neighbours. What will he and his ilk suggest next?  Plain Gaelic tops and no matches on Sundays. Please let us all enjoy our unique Irish games, anthem and flags. 

As far as I see it there are unionists who will never accept or understand the uniqueness of our Gaelic culture and people like Jarlath should know this.  Not many unionists call for union flags and God Save The Queen to be stopped to encourage Catholics to go to Windsor Park and see their sport. So please stop diluting our culture and our unique sport.


Co Antrim

Appreciation for wonderful health service

In the context of health cuts – in salary terms applied principally to front-line workers – and resultant pressure on all involved, I want to express appreciation of hospital, ambulance, GP and social, voluntary and independent service staff at every level.

My husband recently spent two fortnight-long spells in hospital. He is currently in the care of various local services. We have been fortunate in experiencing beyond-the-call-of-duty attention, time, interest and compassion.


Belfast BT15

Apportioning blame

Malachy G Finnegan (October 15) in reply to my letter (October 8) states that I am “completely wrong to blame the obvious sectarian division of Northern Ireland on Catholic education...”

Malachy, you have obviously totally misread my letter.  Therefore I would suggest, if you have not already done so, that you re-read it and you will clearly see, that rather than blaming the ethos of Catholic schools, I was upholding the rights of Catholics to continue to enjoy the benefit of their excellent education system –the results of which speak for themselves.


Belfast BT7