Press Release

Joint Communiqué from the Second Plenary of the North/South Inter-Parliamentary Association

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Friday, 26 April 2013

Reference: AC 03/12/13

The North/South Inter-Parliamentary Association which comprises of representatives from the Northern Ireland Assembly and Houses of the Oireachtas, today held its second Plenary in the Senate Chamber in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast.

The meeting was jointly chaired by the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr William Hay, MLA and the Ceann Comhairle, Mr Seán Barrett, TD.

The theme for the day was 'Health' and the Association heard from a range of speakers who delivered a series of joint presentations on Positive Mental Health Strategies, Suicide, Type 2 Diabetes and Caring for an Aging Population.

The first session was delivered by Ms Andrea Kearns from Aware Defeat Depression and Dr Tony Bates from Headstrong addressing positive mental health strategies. Ms Kearns spoke as the Education Officer from Aware Defeat Depression and shared her own personal story and thoughts regarding services with the Association. Dr Bates highlighted the range of activities and work being undertaken within his own organisation. The Association agreed that much more work was required to address the difficulties that people were facing when dealing with depression and mental illness.

The concluding morning session was on the topic of Suicide and Dr Philip McGarry, a Consultant Psychiatrist and Mr Gerry Raleigh, the Director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention spoke to the Association. Dr McGarry spoke of the broader societal and cultural problems affecting suicide rates, including economic deprivation, troubles related legacy issues and continuing violence. Mr Gerry Raleigh highlighted the National Strategy for Action on Suicide prevention. Members paid tribute to the work and efforts of both speakers and the work they were undertaking and agreed that strengthening partnerships between the jurisdictions would enhance relationships and provide support in the delivery of services.

The first afternoon session addressed Type 2 Diabetes and presentations were given from Dr Roy Harper, Consultant Endocrinologist at the Ulster Hospital and Dr Diarmuid Smith, Consultant Endocrinologist at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. Both speakers highlighted the statistics in the prevalence of diabetes within their areas of work and suggested a range of preventative strategies including youth education programmes and the promotion of a healthy and active lifestyle.

The final afternoon session was delivered by Professor Charles Normand, the Edward Kennedy Professor of Health Policy and Management at Trinity College Dublin. Professor Normand spoke to the Association on 'Caring for an Aging Population'. The Association noted the importance of this issue within both jurisdictions and the work currently being undertaken to improve the quality services for older members of our society.

The Joint Chairs and Association Members noted the wealth of information shared during the Plenary session and the quality of contributions provided by the keynote speakers. The Executive Committee have agreed to hold their next meetings on 20 September and on 3 Oct in advance of the third Plenary of the Association which will take place in the Houses of the Oireachtas, Dublin on 4 October 2013.

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