During the ‘Celtic Tiger’ era, multinational companies and banks flocked to Ireland to take advantage of unregulated economic laws, low corporation tax and greedy politicians.
All the while, the Twenty-Six County state established a façade of western liberal democracy and unrivalled economic growth and prosperity, while, in the north-east of the country, the Stormont establishment wined and dined with North American businessmen and their political cohorts in a now failed attempt to attract inward investment.
However, in the working class communities where the Celtic Tiger could barely manage a purr, the pressures of modern capitalist Ireland are too much to bear for many men, women and children.
Drug and alcohol abuse, financial pressures, broken relationships, unemployment and mental illnesses have brought many to the depths of despair and, sadly, many feel so isolated that suicide becomes a tragic option.
Almost every year in Ireland, around 700 people will feel so isolated and distraught that they take their own lives, since 1996 the number of suicides in the Six Counties has increased by an outrageous 111 per cent.
On December 23 last year, a 16-year-old boy from the New Lodge area of north Belfast, after taking illegal drugs, sadly lost his life. The blame for his death lies firmly at the door of the drug dealers in the area who are selling lethal drugs for as little as 50 pence [57 cent] per pill.
North Belfast is a community that has had to deal with suicide in the past – the area has the highest suicide rate in the Six Counties.
Young men in socially deprived areas are twice as likely to attempt suicide than young men living in non-deprived areas; the average rate of suicide in the north is 9.8 per 100,000 – within north and west Belfast, the rate is much higher with an average approaching 18 per 100,000.
In 2008, 9,218 people in the Twenty-Six Counties received treatment in accident and emergency units as a result of acts of self harm; that is a 6 per cent increase on the previous year, while 21 per cent of these cases were repeat acts of self harm.
A common myth about self harm is that those who harm themselves physically have no intention of taking their own lives. However, recent studies have found that, in 75 per cent of suicides, the victim has self harmed previous to taking their own lives.
The pressure on frontline services, which are extremely vital in dealing with suicidal patients, is going to become greater following the anti-social Dublin government budget, which savagely attacked jobs in the public sector, and the recent announcement in the Six Counties that the Department of Health will face cuts of up to £113 million [€129 million]. Meanwhile, the Stormont parties went cap in hand to the British government to secure £1 billion [€1.1 billion] for the proposed limited transfer of policing and justice powers.
While the statelets both north and south have shown just how inept they are in dealing with vulnerable people, credit must be given to charitable organisations like PIPS, Suicide Awareness and The Samaritans who have attempted to fill this void.
The situation that has been allowed to fester under capitalism has driven many people to the brink of suicide as they fail to cope with the pressures of a profoundly sick society. This travesty has been conveniently hidden under the façade of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ and the ‘Peace Process’.
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