– 16 April 2013
A close relative of Alliance MLA Kieran McCarthy has taken his own life, it has been revealed.
Mr McCarthy’s son-in-law, Hugh O’Prey (39), died last Tuesday, the Strangford Assembly Member said.
He was principal at St Finian’s Primary School in Newtownards, Co Down.
Mr McCarthy said: “Hugh O’Prey was a big, strong family man. He had everything to live for – a good home, a wonderful hard-working wife, a fantastic eight-year-old daughter, a good job – and now our family are faced with something we simply cannot understand and the question is: why, why, why?
“We need action and we need action now.”
In an Assembly debate on suicide on Monday Sinn Fein MLA Sue Ramsey said the Executive should prioritise prevention strategies.
“The fact that suicide is one of the biggest killers in our community is clear with around 300 people taking their own lives each year, making it something that we urgently need to address,” Ms Ramsey said.
“The overall suicide rate here has more than doubled in the past 30 years and we need a joined-up approach and commitment across all government departments to tackle suicide.”
Health Minister Edwin Poots expressed his condolences to Mr McCarthy. He said: “While I am deeply saddened that there has not been a decrease, I do not consider it fair to say that the (suicide prevention) strategy has failed.
“Indeed, I believe that a substantial number of lives have been saved through the efforts of those working on suicide prevention under Protect Life.
“We can’t put a figure on this, but we have testimony from people who have been helped and who have stated that, without such intervention, they would not be alive today.”
UUP health spokesperson Roy Beggs MLA said that, while the Department for Health had a lead role, many others could also help address the issue.
Each year around 300 people commit suicide in Northern Ireland, with the figure increasing every year since 2006. Some 72 teens and young men took their own lives in Northern Ireland in 2011, while 165 died by suicide in the Republic. Suicide increased by 64% in Northern Ireland between 1999 and 2008. In 2010, 77% of all suicides were men, 40.5% were in the age group 15-34 and 42% were in the age group 35-54.
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