Executive needs to take mental health seriously

Mental health provision across  Northern Ireland is facing many difficulties and hurdles. (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Mental health provision across Northern Ireland is facing many difficulties and hurdles. (Dominic Lipinski/PA) Mental health provision across Northern Ireland is facing many difficulties and hurdles. (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

With the assembly elections now over and the various political parties setting out their stalls in the negotiations regarding the Programme for Government mental health and mental well being is an issue that all political parties and politicians  need to sign up to and address with a mental health and well-being strategy during the next term of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Mental health provision across Northern Ireland is facing many difficulties and hurdles. One in four individuals will face a mental health problem in their lifetime, indeed there is currently an estimated 213,000 mental health sufferers across Northern Ireland half of which is attributable to the Troubles.

Over the last number of years there have been a number of policy interventions that have attempted to either improve or stabilise mental health care and treatment by moving care into the community, closer to the patients’ home. However, budget cuts has dramatically affected their ability to improve services and there is now the danger that any more cuts will severely hamper existing mental health services.

Only properly investing in mental health provision by the Northern Ireland Executive will dramatically improve the quality of life for an individual and their families and reducing the economic costs associated with mental ill-health.

Mental health problems are the responsibility of all executive departments. This is why there needs to be a collective cross-governmental mental health and well-being strategy in the Programme for Government in conjunction with input from all other key stake-holders.

The incoming executive needs to start taking mental health seriously and they need to commit to improving the mental health and well-being of our people. 



Newry Mourne and Down District Council

No economic justification for allowing tax havens to continue

Last Thursday the UK’s prime minister David Cameron hosted the international Anti-Corruption Summit in London aimed at stepping up global action to expose, punish and drive out corruption in all walks of life.

As the Panama Papers and other exposés have revealed, the secrecy provided by tax havens fuels corruption and undermines countries’ ability to collect their fair share of taxes.

This in turn impacts on governments’ ability to provide accessible, high quality public services such as health and education to their citizens.

All countries are hit by tax dodging to a varying extent, but poor countries are proportionately the biggest losers, missing out on at least $170bn (approx. £119bn) of taxes annually as a result.

In advance of the summit more than 300 leading economists from 30 countries came together in a letter coordinated by Oxfam to world leaders warning that there is no economic justification for allowing tax havens to continue and urging them to bring an end to offshore financial secrecy.

Dr Nat O’Connor from the Ulster University and Professor Paul Teague from Queen’s University Belfast were among the signatories, which also included Thomas Piketty, author of the best-selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century and Angus Deaton, the current Nobel Prize-winner for economics.

We need to wipe out the secrecy that surrounds tax havens with new global agreements on key issues like public country by country reporting, including for tax havens, which means we would know where companies really make their profits and where they are paying their taxes.

Governments must also put their own houses in order by ensuring that all the territories, for which they are responsible, make publicly available information about the real ‘beneficial’ owners of company and trusts.

The UK, as host for this summit and as a country that has sovereignty over around a third of the world’s tax havens, is uniquely placed to take a lead.

This isn’t just about arbitrary figures on a balance sheet, but can mean the difference between life and death, as highlighted by Zambian tax activist Cecillia Mulenga at a recent event in Belfast. Cecillia spoke to audiences here about how she had lost a close friend recently who died while eight months pregnant because there were no health facilities in her area even though Zambia is rich in natural resources which are heavily exploited by multinational corporations.  

Taking on tax havens will not be easy.

Jim Clarken

Chief Executive,

Oxfam Ireland

Context for united Ireland

As we begin to return to the unstable normality of Northern Ireland politics and who rules these six counties or has actual power has been decided, I have now begun to filter the  likely outcomes to this ‘democratic process’ and I ask the question – if Sinn Féin is to deliver a united Ireland espoused on lampposts to electorate – do they seriously believe that a united Ireland is achievable within the EU framework and I ask, when will this happen and how?

The unionists believe that the exit is good for unionism – why? To create a border which unionism can claim that the security of ‘Ulster’ has been assured  on the off chance that the Conservatives will buffer this ‘wee place’ from austerity. They are prepared to chance the down grading of the  livelihoods of their electorate on the say so of Farage and right-wing Tories who have no link to the people who will suffer as a result of a Brexit. 

I personally believe the results of a Brexit would serve as a conduit to the early beginning of a united Ireland. Because  you can’t have an island with two-thirds  having an economy far greater than the other third where people will struggle to find jobs, good pay and be confronted with the yet to come next phase of austerity.

I believe it will be economics that will be the deliverer of the movement of people seeking a standard of living that cannot be assured, but more likely to be within an EU country.


Belfast BT11

Erroneous notion

Colin Nevin’s claim (May 5) that Saturday – not Sunday – should be the Christian’s day of rest is false. His opinion is also the view of a quasi-Christian sect – Seventh Day Adventism. The vast majority of Christians of all traditions reject this erroneous notion.

The Lord Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and He declares: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). He appeared to His disciples, after His resurrection from the dead, on the first day of the week – Sunday.

It was Sunday, therefore, that correctly began to be observed by the apostles and the early Church as the Sabbath of the New Covenant.

Our Lord gave His Church authority to act and teach in His Name and He guaranteed that teaching would be preserved from error (Mt 28:20, Lk 10:16, Jn 16:13). The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, decided Sunday as the day of rest and worship. 

In Scripture and since the earliest days of the Church, Sunday is called “the Lord’s Day” (Rev 1:10). Sunday, therefore, has properly superseded the old sabbath of the Old Testament. 


Crossgar, Co Down

Case of sour grapes

Now the assembly election is over I’ve read some of the negative comments from some of the politicians  regarding the outcome. Some of them thought that it was their God - given right that the electorate should have voted for them and nobody else. The words here are sour grapes. 

They must remember that the people outside Stormont have a right to vote for whoever they like, whether they like it or not. They are there to represent and fight for the people. This election has reminded me of a popularity contest for themselves, some of them totally ignoring the reason why they were elected. It got tiring having to listen to some of them, morning, noon and night.


Newtownabbey, Co Antrim