'The fact it’s being closed is incomprehensible': Vigil to be held over Owenacurra closure

'The fact it’s being closed is incomprehensible': Vigil to be held over Owenacurra closure

A section of the crowd who attended a previous public demonstration in October to protest against the proposed closure of the Owenacurra Mental Health facility in Midleton. Picture: David Keane.

FAMILIES of the residents of a Midleton mental health facility at risk of closure are getting ready to stand in solidarity together at a Christmas vigil tonight.

The vigil has been organised by the ‘Friends of Owenacurra’ group, as well as local councillors, in an effort to keep the centre in the spotlight.

“We’re having a vigil to keep the matter in the public eye and to regenerate support locally,” said Maureen O’Sullivan, whose brother is a resident in the centre.

“We’ve fought an epic battle, but we don’t seem to be getting anywhere at all.”

It was announced in June that the residential and day centre, which has been serving East Cork for 33 years, would be closed by October 31 due to building defects and that its 19 residents would be transferred to other locations.

The closure was pushed back to an unspecified date, and local politicians and affected families have been campaigning since for the centre to remain open.

“My fear is that my brother will be moved somewhere with less staff,” said Ms O’Sullivan.

The Owenacurra Centre in Midleton.
The Owenacurra Centre in Midleton.

“It doesn’t matter that he might have a nice big en suite room. All of that is irrelevant because, if he comes off his medication, he will become homeless in a short period of time.”

Ms O’Sullivan told The Echo that for her brother, who was homeless for a time, the centre has been “lifesaving”.

“Owenacurra has brought my brother the happiest 10 years of his life. He had been living with my mother but disappeared and was homeless for the best part of a year,” she said.

“Luckily, they found him a place in Owenacurra, where the staff really care about the patients. The fact it’s being closed is incomprehensible.”

Mary Hurley, of the Friends of Owenacurra group, added that the socially distanced vigil was also planned to remind the centre’s users that the community is there for them.

“Christmas is about home and connection and these people are really in a very precarious and unsettled situation. We just want to acknowledge what they’re going through, both the residents and those who usually receive a respite service but can’t now,” Ms Hurley said.

“They’re a very hidden and invisible group of people and we want to show that we haven’t forgotten them.”

The vigil takes place outside the Owenacurra Centre tonight at 7pm.

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