Remarks on suicide and debt welcomed


CONTROVERSIAL REMARKS by Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan that banks were driving some debt-ridden borrowers to suicide were yesterday welcomed by those behind a new suicide prevention campaign.

Potential rivals for the position of president of Ireland – Independent Senator David Norris and Dragons’ Den judge Sean Gallagher – joined forces to promote the Snowdrop campaign by the Console suicide bereavement and prevention service.

Mr Honohan strongly criticised banks and other creditors for pursuing “to the bitter end” debtors who simply cannot pay with the objective of writing off debts to achieve a tax benefit. Such meaningless “accountancy exercises” were causing social disquiet and driving some people to take their lives, he said.

Mr Norris said Mr Honohan was right to speak out about the issue, because doing so could help people who were struggling with financial difficulties. “We must listen to people like Edmund Honohan,” Mr Norris said. “We must end the silence.”

The Senator said men in particular sometimes had difficulty talking about their feelings. “It’s not seen as being manly,” he said. Young men were the biggest risk group for suicide, he added.

Mr Gallagher said in his experience women were good at supporting each other “face to face”. Older men operated differently – “they did it shoulder to shoulder at a bar counter”, he said.

Older men now often felt isolated, he pointed out. “Very often, those who need us most are not those who shout the loudest but those who are silent,” he said.

Console chief executive Paul Kelly said he welcomed Mr Honohan’s statement. He said many families contacting his organisation were in great distress over financial matters.

“What the Master of the High Court is saying is the reality in our work and we welcome his statement. The message we’re trying to get out to people is that there is help there, there is support there,” Mr Kelly said.

He said 500 people a year took their own lives, while 12,000 presented at Accident Emergency units having engaged in acts of self harm or attempted suicide.