Protest over cuts to mental health services takes place at the Dáil

Leo Varadkar says there was no government decision on the issue

Mental health services, protest, Dail, Cork, Galway, Mental Health Reform, USI, IAmAReason,

Crowds outside Leinster House in Dublin | Image via @gavreilly on Twitter

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

"There's an impression that's being created that there was some sort of government decision or some sort of ministerial order - even some people think that it was one by me - to divert money from mental health...that's actually not the case", he told Newstalk Lunchtime.

His comments came as hundreds of people attended protests outside the Dáil in Dublin, and across the country, to call for mental health to be a priority for the next government.

A number of mental health advocates also addressed the demonstration in Dublin.

It was organised by Mental Health Reform and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).

The director of Mental Health Reform, Shari McDaid, said: "Mental health needs to be a national priority for the next government".

Image: Conor McCabe Photography

"For far too long mental health services have been overshadowed by other so-called politically sensitive areas of the health service. It is time to demand parity of esteem for physical and mental health".

Image: Conor McCabe Photography

The demonstration is seen as a culmination of reaction that has grown over the past few weeks, following reports that €12m of the €35m ring-fenced for development of mental health services in Budget 2016 was being diverted to other areas of the health service.

Image: Conor McCabe Photography

But Mr Varadkar says that was not the case.

People also took to social media using the hashtag 'IAmAReason' to vent their anger at the situation.

Similar demonstrations were held in Cork and Galway today - but Mental Health Reform said the only event being organised by them is the demonstration outside the Dáil.