INTRODUCTION. Now in its fifth year of existence, MFIrl continued its work as a vibrant, democratic organisation independent of government or pharmaceutical industry funding, striving towards its goal of a non-violent revolution in the ‘mental health’ system and the protection of the human rights of people caught up in that system.

MESSAGE THROUGH THE MEDIA. The greatest asset to our campaign was the establishment of our new website – mindfreedomireland.com. The site is updated on a regular basis and contains valuable information on events and news as well as providing vital links to other allied and useful sites. Our appreciationn and gratitude go to Aymen Hafez, a student of Douglas Community School Cork for his help in establishing the site and also to Omar Yildirim for putting up our videos on You Tube.

MFIrl continued its campaign with letters to the national newspapers and a prominent anti-shock feature in the Sunday Independent, Ireland’s biggest circulation Sunday newspaper. An anthology of new poems by Lydia Walsh-Yildirim was accepted by The Mental Health Commission on the occasion of the World Mental Health Day Lecture in Dublin. In addition, Mary Maddock wrote a number of new songs, one of which – Voices – was adopted by the Hearing Voices Network as their anthem. The book Soul Survivor was also reprinted and is now available in The Mad Market and from our website.

CONFERENCES. MFIrl was represented at quite a number of conferences during the year. These included the CROW/Altering Images Conference in University College, Cork which this year had rhe theme of ‘Community, Recovery, Ownership, Wellbeing’. Lydia, Mel O’Dea and Mary all delivered powerful presentations (See You Tube) as well as conducting, with the help of Greg White, a moving candlelight cermony for deperted founder-member Helena King accompanied by Alex singing the song ‘Voices’. The whole presentation was so well received that a request has been made for it to be repeated at the National Service Users inaugural conference which will be held in Cork on January 24th, 2009.

MFIrl was also represented at the Hearing Voices, CASA and Terence McLoughlin Memorial Conference held in Manchester in September and again at the Oldham Users’ Conference. As part of a series of events to mark World Mental Health Day in October, MFIrl had an information stand at the West Cork CROW/Altering Images ‘Into the Light’ conference organised by Noel Palmer and also at the WMD Festival organised by Pathways to Freedom, a committee inclusive of all service-user organisations in Cork city where we distributed relevant literature including our newly printed MFIrl information leaflet.

OTHER EVENTS. In March Nuria O’Mahony spoke at the launch of the book ‘Power, Politics and Pharmaceuticals’ edited by Orla O’Donovan and Kathy Glavis-Grantham in UCC. Also in the spring, Colette Ni Dhuinneachain represented MFIrl at the inaugural meeting of the National Service Users’ Executive. Our second annual anti-shock protest took place outside the GPO in Cork in May on a beautiful day compared to the deluge of 2007. Approximately 12 MFIrl members distributed facts on electro-shock and some delivered public speeches on their personal experiences. In a generally bad summer weather-wise, MFIrl attended John McCarthy’s Mad Pride Festival in Fitzgerald Park which fortunately was bathed in sunshine on the day. The festival received nation-wide tv coverage. Another ‘fun’ event was the Cork Women’s Mini-Marathon in which a number or real and ‘disguised’ female MFIrl members participated to raise badly needed funds.

In June, MFIrl had an information stand at the CCHR Exhibition in the City Hall and nine members – Lydia, Colette, Mel, Maria, Dorothy, Mary, Kevin, Martin and Brendan – delivered excellent testimonies under the banner of Survivors Speak Out. MFIrl also organised a vigil in memory of Esmin Elizabeth Green, the woman who was left to die on the floor of a waiting room in Kings County Hospital, New York in June. In July, MFIrl held a peaceful protest outside the gates of the Irish parliament, the Dail and later attended the debate in the Senate in support of Dr. Michael Corry’s sponsored Private Members Bill to amend the 2001 Mental Health Act to ban enforced electro-shock.

In August MFIrl members were in Dublin again, all at their own expense, to meet with Amnesty Ireland and provide them with our perspective on the human rights aspect of their current mental health campaign. MFIrl was again represented at another consultative meeting organised by Amnesty in October, consultations which are still ongoing.

On an international level, contact was maintained with a number of sister groups including Anna de Jonge and Patients’ Rights Advocacy in New Zealand, Mary Nettle and Peter Lehman and ENUSP in Europe, Tina Minkowitz and WNUSP in New York, Moosa Salie and WNUSP in South Africa (MFIrl was present for the signing of The Cape Town Declaration calling for respect for the human rights of people with psycho/social difficulties), Jim Gottstein and Psychrights in Alaska, Don Weitz and CAPA in Toronto, Sue Clarke and ICBE (International Campaign to Ban Electro-shock) in Ottawa, Helene Grandbois, anti-shock campaigner in Quebec and of course, David Oaks and MindFreedom in USA. In December, MFIrl was active in supporting the campaign to highligh the forced electro-shocking of Ray Sandford in Minnesota. Our final event was a Christmas drinks and get-together fun night at a city hotel.

CONCLUSION. All in all, the members of MFIrl can be proud of what they achieved during the year. From a small base we have been fortunate to attract some new, young and active people who have raised our overall morale. The MFIrl name and logo is gaining increasing currency and recognition on the national stage where, I think it is fair to say, we are punching above our weight. The new year however, will still confront us with many challenges. A priority will be to continue to press for changes in The Mental Health Act in relation to electro-shock. We will also continue to lobby the Irish government to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Disabled. We will continue to further educate the public and speak out on the human rights abuses in the system. We aim to promote effective and humane alternatives, empower our members, existing and new, to be ‘mad proud’ and encourage the formation of affiliate branches in other countries in Europe.

Beannacht De ar an obair!

Jim Maddock,

31st December, 2008.