Joan Freeman’s track record was behind FF backing in Cork, councillor says

Nine Cork Fianna Fail councillors backed Senator to run for president on Monday

Joan Freeman said she found trying to effect change in the Seanad very frustrating. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Joan Freeman said she found trying to effect change in the Seanad very frustrating. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill


Senator Joan Freeman’s track record as a campaigner on mental health since was what prompted Fianna Fail councillors on Cork City Council to endorse her in seeking a presidential nomination, a member of the party has said.

She received the backing of Cork City Council at a specially convened meeting of the council on Monday night when she got the support of some 14 councillors including nine members of Fianna Fail on the 31 member body.

Fianna Fail Cllr Terry Shannon explained to The Irish Times that that party had decided to back Ms Freeman on foot of her track record in founding Pieta House a.

“We felt that Senator Freeman was impressive and that she has a good track record in promoting mental health which is a very important issue for the youth and while it has nothing to do with the presidency, we felt we need to have this debate and it gives her a good platform to do that,” he said.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Freeman said she was deeply grateful to Cork City Council and said that she always had fond memories of Cork from her work here with Pieta House and the city had again come good for her in her bid to get a presidential nomination.

“I am absolutely thrilled and for this to happen in Cork - I never expected it - it’s the first council to nominate me - I am extremely grateful and proud for the support from the public representatives of Cork City Council and for the trust they have placed in me to contest the presidency.”

Nine of the ten members of Fianna Fail on Cork City Council were present for the vote and they all backed Ms Freeman as did Cllr PJ Hourican of Fine Gael and four independents including Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Mick Finn.

The remaining 11 councillors present, including members of Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and Solidarity, all abstained in the vote and none of the other five candidates, Gavin Duffy, John Groarke, Sarah Louise Mulligan, Gemma O’Doherty and Jimmy Smyth who made presentations received any vote.

Ms Freeman needs four council nominations to secure a place on the ballot paper for the October 26th vote against President Michael D Higgins.

In 2011, Cork City Council backed independent candidate Sean Gallagher for a presidential nomination, leading to speculation the council might again support him. Mr Gallagher did not attend Monday night’s meeting and councillors could only back those who attended and made presentations.

Earlier during her presentation, Senator Freeman said she believed that while three Dragon’s Den judges, Peter Casey, Gavin Duffy and Sean Gallagher were all welcome in the presidential race, she believed that there was a need to “broaden the spectrum” of those seeking a nomination.

She outlined her track record as a mental health campaigner and how the charity she founded, Pieta House had grown from humble beginnings .

Ms Freeman said she found trying to effect change in the Seanad very frustrating and instanced the fact that it has taken her two years to get a bill through the Seanad seeking to prevent children from being treated in adult psychiatric institutions.

She acknowledged that the president could not directly change how the health system treats people with mental health issues but she instanced the case of a 14 year old boy who spent 41 days in an adult psychiatric facility in Waterford and how as president, she might effect change in his case.

“He was being kept in unit called the Dungeon because it’s in the basement of the building and he was there for 41 days and he could hear adult men screaming - imagine what would happen if I were to visit the Dungeon as president to highlight of children being held in adult psychiatric units,” she said.