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Open Letter from Ireland's psychologists: 'Direct Provision is causing untold psychological harm'

“As a country we must do better,” according to about 150 signatories.

Psychologists for Social Change Ireland

PSYCHOLOGISTS FOR SOCIAL Change Ireland is a network of clinical, applied, and academic/research psychologists and psychology graduates. About 150 of them have signed this letter to the Taoiseach and Children’s Minister, calling for the dismantlement of Direct Provision. 

Dear Taoiseach and Minister Roderic O’Gorman,

We are a group of applied and research psychologists practising in Ireland who believe that Direct Provision must be promptly dismantled and replaced with a more humane and ethical alternative.

We wish to express our solidarity with those seeking asylum on our shores. Our nation has a responsibility to protect those who come to Ireland seeking refuge from persecution, famine and war.

We observe that the Direct Provision system has barely met the basic physiological needs of these individuals and families, while causing untold psychological harm. We are concerned by the many systemic barriers which deny those living in Direct Provision the dignity of fully participating in Irish society.

Bulelani Mfaco of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland has explained how this system “eats away at your humanity”. As a country we must do better.

We are horrified by tragic reports of deaths and suicides. Five years ago, Minister Frances Fitzgerald confirmed that 61 people died while in direct provision between 2002 and 2014.

Shamefully, this included the deaths of 16 children under the age of five. We know of more people who have died in direct provision since the government stopped publishing this data.

People seek asylum to escape traumatic and unbearable situations. As psychologists, we know that before someone can process and recover from a traumatic event, the event itself must have ended. However, Direct Provision actually perpetuates trauma for individuals and families, who often spend years trapped in this system, with considerable uncertainty and ambiguity about when their situation might change.

Tragically, suicide can occur in the context of hopelessness, when the present is unbearable with no end in sight.

Children require physical and emotional safety in order to reach their full potential. They also need space to learn and play.

Parents have spoken out about the immense challenges of raising children within the constraints of the €29.80 weekly allowance per child, and the restrictions imposed by Direct Provision centres, while teenagers have spoken of the difficulties of growing up without privacy in these confined and often isolated settings.

Young people have also told the Ombudsman for Children’s Office about the challenges they can face while living in Direct Provision, including racism, stigma, bullying and exclusion. Implementing a system of lesser entitlements upon children in Ireland’s international protection system is contrary to the state’s obligations as a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Irish Refugee Council has described how children in direct provision live in “state sanctioned child poverty and exclusion”, while the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection has highlighted inherent safeguarding risks to these children.

As psychologists, we recognise that Irish international protection policy requires radical overhaul in order to protect and meet the developmental needs of all children living here.

We welcome the commitment to the abolition of Direct Provision in the new programme for government. However, if we are serious about tackling the mental health crisis facing asylum seekers in this country, then we must acknowledge that Direct Provision has itself been a primary cause of this crisis.

As psychologists, we see people’s individual struggles in their respective social contexts and are mandated to advocate for social justice. We are aware of the suffering of those who live in Direct Provision and we stand with them in demanding change.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Rebecca Heslin (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Cal Mc Donagh (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Jennie Milnes (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Alanna Donnelly (Psychologist in Clinical Training)

Dr Susan Brannick (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Sharon Lambert (Lecturer in Applied Psychology)

Dr Geraldine McNamara (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Maebh Culhane (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Rachel O’Connor (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Helen O’Connell (Senior Clinical Psychologist & Lecturer in Clinical Psychology)

Dr Suzanne Finnegan (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Richard Lombard Vance (Postdoctoral Researcher & Lecturer in Psychology)

Theresa Ryan-Enright (Psychologist in Clinical Training)

Dr Sean Foy (Chartered Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Mark Robinson (Counselling Psychologist)

Caoilfhionn O’Riordan (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Dorothy Leahy, PhD (Psychologist in Clinical Training)

Dr Aisling O’Dwyer O’Brien (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Sarah Robinson (Postdoctoral Researcher in Applied Psychology)

Marica Cassarino (Lecturer in Applied Psychology)

Dr Aileen O’Connor (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Elaine McCarthy (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Conal Twomey (Clinical Psychologist) 

Dr Orlagh Murphy (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Katie Barrett (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Ruth Groarke (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Pádraig Collins (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Deirdre Cleary (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Anne O’ Connor (Senior Clinical Psychologist & Lecturer in Clinical Psychology)

Dr Jonathan Egan (Deputy Director of DPsychSc in Clinical Psychology)

Dr Sheila Devane (Nurse, Midwife, Senior Clinical Psychologist & Medical Missionary of Mary)

Dr Bridge Lucey (Counselling Psychologist)

Dr Jennifer Fennell (Counselling Psychologist)

Dr Sara Oroz (Counselling Psychologist)

Dr Michela Devaney (Counselling Psychologist)

Orla McLoughlin (Counselling Psychologist)

Dr Emer O’ Loughlin (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Colette Conroy (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Joy Kelly (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Andrea Grehan (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Lynda Naughton (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Claire Fahey (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Siobhan Daly (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Ailíse Burke (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Deborah McNamara (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Mark Corcoran (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Maggie Hennessy (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Ann Marie Coffey (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Ruth Stewart (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Aoife Moloney (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr David Feely (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Noelle Sammon (Clinical Psychologist)

Anjali Chaudhri (Counselling Psychologist in Training)

Hayley Bell (Counselling Psychologist in Training)

Tomás Walsh (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Aoife Clancy (Psychologist in Clinical Training)

James Sheerin (Psychologist in Clinical Training)

Inge Nieuwstraten (Counselling Psychologist & Psychotherapist)

Dr Kathleen Mulhall (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Kiera Cosgrove (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Leora DeFlumere (Trainee Counselling Psychologist)

Dr Majella Butler (Counselling & Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Aoife Kearney (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Conor O’Malley (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Anita Turley (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Paul Hayes (Senior Counselling Psychologist)

Dr Charlotte Wilson (Assistant Professor in Clinical Psychology and Clinical Psychologist)

Keith Mulroy (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Aideen O’Neill (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Sinead Ní Chaolain (Clinical Psychologist)

Emmeline Gillan (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Cliona Hallissey (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Katarina Timulakova (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Dorothy Rowley (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Austin Bailey (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Jennifer Mulligan (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Johanna Clancy (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Gillian Karwig (Clinical Psychologist)

Suzanne McMahon (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Shona O’Connor (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Laura O’Halloran (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Gwen Farrell (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Brìd Blackburn (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Mark Smyth (President of the Psychological Society of Ireland)

Louise Hickey (Clinical Psychologist)

Louise Bhandal (Trainee Counselling Psychologist)

Caroline Chawke (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Catherine O’Kelly (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Susan Fox (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Haulie Dowd (Chartered Clinical Psychologist & Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Conor Linehan (Senior Lecturer in Applied Psychology)

Dr Laura Philpott (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Amanda Fitzgerald (Associate Professor University College Dublin)

Alison Dillon (Chairperson of the Psychological Society of Ireland Early Graduate Group)

Dr Alisha Walker (Clinical Psychologist)

Teresa O’Mahony (Principal Psychologist Manager)

Professor Gary O’Reilly (Professor of Clinical Psychology & Principal Clinical Psychologist)

Joe Geary (Counselling Psychology Trainee)

Dr Deirdre Finnegan (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Cian Aherne (Clinical Psychologist)

Katy Anchell (Chartered Counselling Psychologist)

Dr Michael Drumm (Principal Psychology Manager)

Dr Olive Moloney (Clinical Psychologist)

Niamh Ni Dhomhnaill (Psychologist in Clinical Training)

Dr Orla Lynch (Psychologist & Senior Lecturer)

Dr Joanne McVeigh (Psychology Department Lecturer)

Dr Orla Richardson (Clinical Psychologist)

Niamh Gralton (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Alison Byrne (Clinical Psychologist)

Siobhán Burke (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Toni Galligan (Psychologist in Clinical Training)

Patricia Cooney (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

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Niamh Allen (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Jackie Boland (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Aoife Fennelly (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Dee Brennan (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Megan King (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Jackie Fitzgerald (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Lisa Fennelly (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Alisha Gillespie (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Marese McDonnell (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Lisa McGrath (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Deirdre Desmond (Associate Professor in Psychology)

Dr Simone Carton (Principal Clinical Neuropsychologist)

Dr Sarah Foley (Lecturer in Applied Psychology)

Dr Gillian Murphy (Clinical Psychologist)

Louise Foley (PhD Student in Psychology)

Dr Gerry Molloy (Lecturer in Psychology)

Dr Mike Murphy (Lecturer in Applied Psychology)

Clare Thynne (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Liliana Morales (Counselling Psychologist)

Jane Murphy (PhD Student in Psychology)

Hilary Groarke (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Mary Egan (Psychologist in Clinical Training)

Dr Paul Quinn (Clinical Psychologist)

Karen Hickey (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Bríd Fogarty (Clinical Psychologist)

Leanne Gibney (Trainee Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Garret McDermott (Principal Clinical Neuropsychologist)

Dr Niamh Lowe (Clinical Psychologist)

Ciara Wynne (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Hester Noonan (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Eimear Morrissey (Health Psychologist)

Dr Eleanor Griffith (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Orla Moore (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Marian O’Flynn (Senior Counselling Psychologist)

Dr Clare Sutton (Clinical Psychologist)

Dr Mary Keating (Senior Clinical Psychologist)

Rebecca Collins (Psychologist in Clinical Training)

Formed in 2019, Psychologists for Social Change Ireland is interested in applying the principles and evidence of psychology to policy and political action. The group believes that people’s social, political, and material contexts are central to their experiences as individuals. Its aim is to encourage more psychologists to draw on shared experiences and knowledge to engage in public and policy debates.

Psychologists for Social Change Ireland is not a membership organisation, rather it is a network of individuals. The open letter was written by a core group of psychologists and signed by a considerable number of psychologists in our networks but is very much a living document and we welcome further signatures.

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