As 2009 draws to a close, MFIrl can look back on its performance during the year and report significant progress on a number of fronts.

LOBBYING. MfIrl maintained its established links with Amnesty Ireland and supported its ongoing campaign against humann rights abuses. MFIrl also lent its support to the successful effort to stop the forced shocking of Ray Sandford as well as supporting other efforts on behalf of John Hunt (Ireland), Anthony Milne (South Africa) and Abdul Ahmed (Denmark). In addition, MFIrl lobbied Irish politicians on the shortcomings of the Irish psychiatric system and was present in the Irish Senate for the debate on the bill to abolish forced electro-shock. Support and advice was also offered to many people who contacted us through our website and Martin Hynes and Dorothee Krien made valuable advocacy contributions in a number of Tribunal cases.

MEDIA CAMPAIGN. MFIrl was represented by Nuria O’Mahony on ‘Prime Time’ the flagship RTE current affairs programme which was dealing with the issue of the adverse effects of SSRIs. Further media attention was secured by a number of articles in The Irish Times and Sunday Times, two large circulation national newspapers while the voice of MFIrl was also heard in the month long ‘ECT Without Consent’ debate in the influential ‘Letters to the Editor’ page of the Irish Tomes. Facebook causes such as ‘Stop Forced Electroshock’, ‘The Incarceration of John’ and ‘Support MindFreedom Ireland’ were set up as well as a number of videos being added to You Tube.

EVENTS. Lydia Walsh-Yildirim and Mary Maddock made a poetry and music presentation to the National Service Users Executive Conference in Cork as well as other members mounting a poster exhibition and having an information stand. In June, MFIrl in solidarity with ‘We the People’ held a memorial cermony to mark the anniversary of the death of Esmin Greene who died from psychiatric neglect in Kings County Hospital, New York in 2007.

Inspired by Grainne HUmphries and in conjunction with Asylum Associates, MFIrl helped with the initial organising arrangements for the UCC Recovery Conference which was subsequently ‘recovered’ by Harry Gibjels and Lydia Sapouna from UCC when it seemed that, because of circumstances, it might not have come to pass. The two day conference ‘Making Thriving a Reality; Towards and Beyond Mental Health Recovery’ brought together a wide range of progressive thinking and included workshop presentations from Greg White and Mary Maddock.

MFIrl was also represented by Martin Hynes at an ENUSP conference in Brussells in March while in June, Dorothee Krien organised a visit by Dr.Betty Maritini who spoke at a public meeting on the issue of aspartame and the role it plays in adverse health effects. With the help of Tony Christie, Colette Ni Dhuinneacha organised Labyrinth meetings ai the Laverna Centre, Cork. They helped members to relax and unite with mutual support and solidarity.

Our third annual anti-shock protest took place in May with Martin Hynes, Kevin Foley, Colette Ni Dhuinneacha and Mary Maddock all giving public testimony to their negative experiences at a rally which was also addressed by disability campaigner and independent MEP Kathy Sinnott. Many members were also present in Fitzgerald Park for the second Mad Pride Festival, organised by John McCarthy.

SUPPORT GROUP One of our most notable achievements in the year was the setting up of our Wednesday support group ‘Stand By Me’. Meeting in the warm, everyday surrounds of Costa’s Coffee Shop in Douglas, the group has a strong solid core of regular attenders and others who drop in from time to time. Lively discussion, information exchange and fun are the main ingredients of the by now well established ‘diary date’. We also appreciate the support of The Society of Friends who offered the use of their Meeting Hall for our annual Christmas party.

CONNECTIONS MindFreedom was once known as Support Coalition International and the philosophy of international as well as national mutual support is central too to the philosophy of MFIrl. Already existing links with our sisters and brothers such as David oaks, Don Weitz (CAPA), Jim Gottstein (PsychRights), Patients Advocacy (New Zealand), ENUSP and WNUSP were maintained and strengthened. In addition, we made new and valued connections with Barbara, Alison, Marion and Mkke from Elemental UK, Barney from MF Lancaster, Richard from NSUE Sligo and Debra from ENUSP.

CONCLUSION MFIrl continues to thrive and its name and logo are gaining more and more national currency. We are only as strong though as our committed and hardworking members, all with valuable contributions to make, which will be needed for the challenges ahead. Our agenda for the future continues as before – to educate the public, to speak out against human rights abuse, to promote effective and humane alternatives and to encourage the formation of affiliate branches.

Jim Maddock,

31st Decenmber, 2009.