Union of Students in Ireland says Government "doesn't take mental health issues very seriously"

President of the USI says the diversion of mental health funding makes the term 'ring-fenced' meaningless

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The government does not take mental health issues seriously, according to the president of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).

€12 million that was ring-fenced for mental health spending was diverted elsewhere within the Department of Health.

Protests have been held outside Leinster House over the issue.

The former Health Minister Leo Varadkar says there was no ministerial decision to divert funds away from mental health services.

The USI say that any plan for mental health services will not work if it is not properly funded.

Kevin Donoghue, President of the USI, says it shows that a Fine Gael government cannot be trusted on mental health issues.

Mr Donoghue said, "on one hand they said they needed it for elsewhere, and that's fine - but the mental health services across the board are savagely underfunded.

"I think it makes the word 'ring-fenced' meaningless, across the board. It doesn't matter what sector, what budget or what it is you're talking about," he added.

Over the weekend, the new Health Minister Simon Harris said, "I expect to be an accountable Minister for Health. We need a political consensus around health, we need all of our politicians to come together".