60% turnout at hospital poll


FIRST VOTES CAST:THE FIRST votes in the European and local elections were cast yesterday at a polling station in the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) in Dundrum.

Traditionally, residents of the off-shore islands are the first to cast their votes in the days before polling day but this year many of the 93 patients resident in CMH were the first to get their chance to vote.

As the hospital is in the Dublin South constituency, patients also voted in the byelection there.

On the eve of polling three by-election candidates – George Lee, Alex White and Shay Brennan – attended a question and answer session for patients in CMH.

According to the hospital’s clinical director and consultant forensic psychiatrist, Dr Harry Kennedy, a lively debate took place.

Most of the discussion centred on mental health and ethics issues.

All three candidates agreed to support an amendment to Section 13 of the Criminal Law Insanity Act which would give a statutory basis for the recall of patients to the hospital for those who experience a relapse after discharge.

Welcoming the empowerment of people in psychiatric hospitals, Dr Kennedy said, “it was the unanimous view among patients here that the decision to relocate CMH to the Thornton Hall prison complex should be reversed”.

Government plans to move the hospital on to the North Dublin prison site have been opposed by health professionals, patient advocates and civil liberties groups. Earlier this month talks between Government and the developers broke down over the project’s costs.

Dr Kennedy paid tribute to CMH’s head social worker Ms Pauline Gill, for ensuring that patients in the hospital had been facilitated to exercise their right to vote.

It is understood there was a turnout in excess of 60 per cent by the time the polling station closed yesterday.