Dáil debates

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Ceisteanna - Questions

Cabinet Committees

5:00 pm

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

Earlier this year, the HSE commissioned a rapid assessment of a suicide cluster which took place in Ballyfermot last year. The outcome of the assessment was published late last month and it makes heartbreaking and alarming reading. The area considered by the assessment has had a female suicide rate three times the national average since 2015. However, it was the deaths of eight women in their 20s and 30s over a short ten-week period that prompted this assessment. Four of the women were from Ballyfermot and the others were from Clondalkin, Tallaght and Palmerstown.

The assessment notes that there was a palpable sense of fear and anxiety that these deaths would have a further contagion effect. The report sets out that underlying trauma is at the root of anxiety, depression or poor mental health for women in the area. Various examples of childhood trauma, including alcohol or drug use, mental ill health, domestic violence, childhood violence and abuse, were identified. The housing crisis was also notable for its inclusion in the challenges faced by young women and their children who experience persistent homelessness and housing insecurity. The report found that a fear of Tusla removing children from mothers is a reason women do not seek help. Young mothers living in poverty and with abuse are afraid of State intervention. That needs to change. Almost all cases cited in the report refer to domestic violence as a key issue.

The HSE is to be commended for commissioning this rapid assessment. Its purpose is not to apportion blame, but to identify gaps in service provision, protections and strategy. I am gravely concerned that there is a lack of pace in urgently delivering the resources, services and reforms that are essential to protect women and their children, despite the fact that many of the solutions are in plain sight right in front of us and have been delivered in other jurisdictions. I want this to become a matter of priority all across the Government. It should be an absolute priority for the Cabinet committee on health.


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