Gay Mitchell: Jump in Liffey just means get off my back
FINE Gael Presidential candidate, Gay Mitchell, said today that his threat to jump off a bridge was nothing to do with suicide, but a plea to "get off my back".
The politician who has pledged to put suicide on the top of his election agenda, was growing exasperated with suggestions that he has had a lacklustre campaign on George Hook’s show on Newstalk.
He erupted: “If anybody says to me anymore ‘Smile’ I will jump off O’Connell Bridge.”
However, today, speaking on Pat Kenny’s Radio 1 show, he said: “I’m very big on suicide protection. It’s a Dublin saying. It’s not a reference to suicide. It’s get off my back.”
All through his campaign, including on the Late Late show last Friday and just one hour before the broadcast, Mr Mitchell has committed to raising awareness about suicide.
Earlier yesterday he branded suicide as “ a horror that stalks the land claiming 600 people a year”.
Peter Moroney of Save Our Sons and Daughters last night criticised Mr Mitchell’s flippant remark as “disgusting and disgraceful”.
“Gay Mitchell’s comment was flippant and disgusting. It shows a complete lack of understanding and compassion. It was disgraceful,” he told the Daily Mail. Mr Moroney’s son Simon committed suicide in 2003.
John Connolly, founder of the Irish Association of Suicdology described the comments to RTE as “unfortunate”.
However suicide campaigner Joan Freeman of Pieta House said it was clear the remark was “not intended to cause hurt”.
Mr Mitchell told George Hook – who has himself written about how close he once came to taking his own life – that he didn’t want to be told to cheer up.
“I’m sick of people telling me to smile, smile, smile. Smiles do not deliver jobs, smiles do not deliver the sort of thing that this country needs which is moral leadership. I will smile when I need to smile but I don’t believe in this smiling business for the sake of smiling.”
Today he said he was fed-up with people talking about the colour of someone’s tie and said the Presidential election was about the authenticity of the person.
Despite his attacks on Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness he said he would accept the democratic decision of the people if Mr McGuinness wins.
He said that Ireland was at a significant cross roads and needed a President more like Charles de Gaulle than Charlie Chaplin.
In 2007 former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was forced to apologise when he suggested that those with a pessimistic outlook for Ireland’s economy should “commit suicide”.
Mr Mitchell had earlier emphasised the issue of suicide at his campaign launch in Dublin saying that he could use the office of the Presidency to work with individuals and agencies who save lives.
“I’m talking about suicide. A suicide counsellor told me recently that as people reach the point of no return it’s like they are in a very dark room with no door. We have to open such doors. Bring light to each other’s darkness,” he said.
Meanwhile, launching her campaign, Mary Davis has accused Fine Gael of dirty tactics.
She accused the party of “paying a lot of money” to pollsters to assess the level of damage being done by attack messages during the campaign.