Councillor Robinson referred to the proposed action regarding the removal of the messages of hope from the bridges and riverfront in the city and asked if there was any indication as to when the public consultation process would begin and how it would be undertaken.
In response, the Head of Health and Community Wellbeing stated that discussions had taken place with the statutory partners who were regarded as the experts in that field, the Public Health Agency (PHA), Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) and others. He stated that a consultation process had been carried out by the PHA and they would be invited to present the details of that consultation process to Members.
Councillor Robinson stated that he sought clarification on the matter as the agreed proposal was that a 12 week public consultation exercise would take place.
In response, the Director of Health and Community outlined that the expert advice and research was required to determine how to progress with the consultation and assist with the process.
Councillor Donnelly stated that it had been agreed at the meeting of the Health and Community Committee on 6 December 2018 that Members defer the recommendation until a 12 week consultation period had taken place with those responsible for displaying the messages and memorabilia at the bridges and along the riverfront. He stated that in his opinion, what was now being suggested was not what had been agreed previously.
In response, the Head of Health and Community Wellbeing stated that discussions had taken place with statutory health agencies and Professor O’Neill, Professor for Mental Health, Ulster University, who have agreed to discuss the proposed consultation process with Members. He outlined that from a Council Officer perspective, it was important to seek advice from the statutory health agencies who are experts in this area of health prior to carrying out a public consultation. He stated that at the Committee meeting on 6 December, he was not aware that a consultation had already taken place and that the PHA and UU had agreed to come before Members to discuss the best way forward.
In response to a query from Alderman Thompson, the Head of Health and Community Wellbeing confirmed that the representatives from the various agencies have agreed to present an update to Members and that the public consultation would subsequently take place.
Councillor Tierney stated that whilst he understood the rationale for expert opinions on the matter, it was agreed that a 12 week public consultation would take place which still must happen regardless of whether or not the experts presented an update.
In response, the Head of Health and Community Wellbeing outlined that on speaking with the health professionals and experts they wished to discuss and update Members on what the previous consultation involved and how best to proceed with the public consultation.
Alderman Hussey concurred with the previous speakers and stated that the kernel of what had been proposed was the importance of engaging with families in a two way process.
Councillor P Kelly queried if the consultation process would involve the entire district and that the experts would have to present as soon as possible in order for the consultation to take place.
In response, the Head of Health and Community Wellbeing stated that representatives from the PHA and UU would update Members and a decision would be taken on the best way forward regarding the public consultation process. He added that this particular type of consultation required more thought and consideration before going forward.
Councillor Duffy informed the Committee that she had proposed at a recent meeting of the Civic Forum where the matter was discussed in detail that representatives make a presentation. She indicated that Council officers and Members did not have the expertise to design this type of consultation so it was necessary to take the advice of the experts on how the consultation would take place. She felt that Council needed to be guided by the experts on how to frame the consultation so that families were not traumatised further.
Councillor O’Reilly referred to Councillor Duffy’s comments regarding further traumatising families and stated that those particular families were already traumatised and did not have any connection with statutory agencies. He agreed that Members had to take guidance from policy and research, however there was a serious lack of connection between families and statutory agencies which led to the manifestation in our city of placing memorabilia on the bridges. He stated that it was important that families felt supported and listened to rather than dictated to by statutory agencies.
The Director of Health and Community stated that all views and comments from Members had been noted. She further stated that the health experts would consider the recommended route for consultation and Members would be given an opportunity to contribute and engage with partners who were delivering services and working alongside people who have been impacted.
Councillor Reilly left the meeting at this point.