TD visibly upset over mental health service failures as she highlights teenager’s anorexia struggle

It’s hypocritical to talk of women’s achievements when State fails to provide most basic health facilities, says Independent Deputy Verona Murphy

Tubridy Kelly Verona Murphy PAC

A TD became emotional in the Dáil while describing a lack of mental health services during a debate to mark International Women’s Day, which takes place on Friday.

Independent Verona Murphy became visibly upset as she addressed a lack of services for families and teens and spoke of a teenager in her Wexford constituency with anorexia and her family’s fight to get a place for their daughter in a specialist facility.

Ms Murphy said it was hypocritical to talk about women’s achievements in sports and other areas when the most basic health facilities “cannot be provided”.

The teenager’s grandfather had died, her father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and she developed anorexia and was admitted to Waterford University Hospital, where over a number of weeks her weight dropped from 36kg to 32kg.


Ms Murphy said the hospital was not equipped to deal with anorexia, but the family was told the teenager would have to be 40kg to move to a specialist facility. The TD said that was the minimum weight required so that she was compos mentis and had the capacity to understand her situation and treatment. She “could have been left to die”, she said, and her family had to fight to get her into the specialist Linn Dara facility in Dublin.

The TD became emotional when she said these failures “meant that Caitlin didn’t spend the time with her dying father. It’s a failure of this State to provide the most basic care and there are hundreds in Wexford alone suffering the same fate under Camhs (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services)”. The girl’s father eventually died in November 2023.

Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman, who introduced the debate to an empty chamber before a small number of Sinn Féin TDs arrived, said while progress in supports for women was incremental, there had been definite improvements since he had become Minister in 2021.

He pointed to the creation of the Domestic Violence Agency and the increase from €20 million to €43 million in funding to tackle domestic abuse, while he said childcare had become more affordable.

He appealed to voters to support the referendums on International Women’s Day and said the article on the family, Article 41.2, “has achieved nothing for women, serving only as an outdated and proscriptive view of their role in Irish society”.

He said if there was a Yes vote on the Care amendment, “Ireland will be among the first countries globally to explicitly elevate care to a constitutional value at the heart of our nation’s founding document. It is a clear recognition that the State needs to do more to support care, those who provide it and those who receive it.”

A number of TDs including Sinn Féin TD Rose Conway-Walsh spoke of the impact of war on women and the conflict in Gaza. “Women suffer the harshest realities of war. In Palestine alone, Israel Defence Forces have murdered 8,400 women and 6,000 girls,” she said, pointing to a UN report stating that many women suffer in conflicts but are excluded from peace agreements.

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness said political parties “are not supporting women in their organisations as they should, and that’s why we don’t get women coming forward on political tickets”.

He said for the parties to say there is a certain allocation for women “is all well and good, but if they don’t change the system” that selects candidates, they will not get the numbers to tilt the balance needed to “do what they say they’re supposed to be doing”.

Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins pointed to the low representation of women in politics. She said 38 per cent of Ireland’s MEPs are women, “25 per cent of our councillors are women, 23 per cent of our TDs are women, that is 36 of the 160 deputies”. She hoped there would be a lot more women when 174 TDs are returned in the next Dáil.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times