An East Cork county councillor councillor has made the decision to leave the Green Party, citing the closure of the Owenacurra Centre and subsequent actions causing “serious harm to a very vulnerable group of people” as his reason for doing so.
Councillor Liam Quaide said he has been 'left frustrated by responses from Ministerial party colleagues on the issue'.
“Regrettably, I’ve decided to leave the Green Party," he told. "Over the past almost two years I’ve pursued a campaign to prevent the closure of a mental health service - the Owenacurra Centre - in Midleton.
It is the only such service in East Cork, providing community-based rehabilitation and placement to people with the highest level of mental health need.
"Neasa Hourigan TD has made heroic efforts on behalf of the Owenacurra Centre campaign. She has, in fact, done much more for the people impacted by this closure than three out of four of our local TDs combined.
“The HSE is meant to be accountable to the government, but the government is refusing to use its powers to challenge a decision that is causing serious harm to a very vulnerable group of people. On more electorally significant issues - such as the status of Navan Hospital's Emergency Dept - the government response has been very different."
“We’ve had six Oireachtas Committee hearings on the Owenacurra closure, and another is due to take place soon," he added.
Cllr Quaide said that he has devoted much energy to highlighting “the flawed rationale for the closure, and the far-reaching, adverse impact it will have on vulnerable adults in my constituency” and said he has helped escalate the Health Committee’s concerns to the HSE Board and uncovered highly irregular investment patterns in Cork mental health services more generally.
“The government has rubber-stamped a service closure that is transparently wrong. The government failed to intervene even as it became public knowledge that some residents were being moved from single-rooms in a town centre location to shared dorms in long-stay wards, cut off from their community,” he said.
“The East Cork HSE catchment, with a population of 100,000, is having its allocation of 24-hour staffed residential placements reduced from twenty to three.
“This is at odds with A Vision for Change, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Person with a Disability (UNCRPD) and the HSE’s own Model of Care for People with Severe and Enduring Mental Illness and Complex Needs.
The three placements only came about through our campaign placing relentless pressure on the HSE. The HSE's original plan was to leave East Cork without any such placements.
“The government’s detachment from the Owenacurra Centre closure reflects a broader trend of not looking after people suffering injustice - tenants facing homelessness due to the lifting of the eviction ban; Mother and Baby Home survivors excluded from redress on an arbitrary basis; healthcare workers with Long Covid left in limbo regarding their financial security.”
He said he has great respect for Green Party public representatives and that the membership is "full of people with strong values”.
Cllr Quaide went on to say the party has had hard-won and important achievements in government but that the country is “rightly up in arms about the housing crisis, and too many people are being failed by government policies”.
This will cause social division, and alienate many people from the Green agenda.
“I wish all my colleagues well, particularly Cllr Alan O'Connor in Cork Co. and Cllrs Colette Finn, Oliver Moran and Dan Boyle in Cork city Council. I will continue to represent the people of East Cork as an Independent Cllr,” he said.
In response to Cllr Quaide’s decision, local Green Party councillor Oliver Moran said: "The decisions around Owenacurra and its residents are very close to home for Liam. He has our full support locally on them and we understand how he feels he has run out of avenues now. Neasa was a champion for him in Oireachtas committees, in raising the issue, holding decision-makers to account, and making sure the effect on residents were kept on the agenda."
"We all spoke to Liam last night about his decision and we know it wasn't taken lightly or easily by him. We'll continue to work together and support each other, and we know that Liam will keep fighting for the residents of Owenacurra."