Fury at plan to take down messages of hope on city bridge linked to suicides
A woman whose brother died by suicide has branded a recommendation to remove 'messages of hope' from Foyle Bridge as "disgusting".
Katie Logue, twin sister of Nathan Logue (24), whose body was returned to his family from the river in September, said she was horrified to learn a Civic Forum set up to address suicide in Londonderry wanted the messages taken down.
The Public Health Agency which is the lead body on the Civic Forum along with the Western Trust, PSNI, Ulster University and Derry's City Centre Initiative said the notes are causing a distraction to "important surveillance work".
The recommendation was discussed at a Derry and Strabane Council committee meeting on Thursday where it was agreed to hold off from removing them to allow a 12 week public consultation progress.
The messages of hope - which include contact numbers for help for people who are feeling suicidal - were first put along the Foyle Bridge last July at the same time as a Facebook page with the same name was launched.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Ms Logue said: "I cannot understand how anyone could think these messages should be taken down.
"They offer hope and an alternative to people who are at their lowest ebb along with where to get immediate help. How is that a bad thing?
"I think it is disgusting that the authorities are trying to destroy something that came from ordinary people of Derry who are trying to do something for people like my brother.
"Something needs to be done to save people from suicide and at least these messages are from people who are actually trying to just that," she said.
The initiative was first set up by local supply teacher Gary Clarke who came up with the idea through his work with young people in the city, many of whom had mental health issues.
Mr Clarke said: "When I first heard there was a recommendation to take the messages down, I was devastated and really couldn't understand why because the idea came out of stories I read about how similar messages posted on bridges in other places were saving lives.
"Suicide is a big issue for a lot of people and my job as a supply teacher to six different schools in Derry puts me in contact with young people up to the age of 18 and seeing them not being able to talk about their problem really made me think.
"Since July, when I set up the Facebook page Messages of Hope and tagging the messages to the Foyle Bridge, the reaction I have had has been incredible. People who have lost family members to suicide and people concerned about the number of suicides in Derry have been so positive and I have had messages from people who said they were feeling low but the messages helped them walk off the bridge," Mr Clarke added.
"As soon as people became aware the messages could come down I have been inundated with calls from people who all want the messages to stay where they are and who have been telling me if they come down, more will go back."
The 12-week consultation programme was agreed as a way to inform the public of why the forum wants the messages taken off the Foyle Bridge railings and to allow the public to register their thoughts on the issue.
A spokesman for the Civic Forum said: "We have reflected carefully on all aspects of this issue and sought advice from experts.
"This has led to a united decision to remove these items, and any similar items placed there in the future.
"The items themselves and the behaviour of those people who stopped to engage with them was creating significant difficulties for those involved in important surveillance work.
"Our services have also received numerous calls from the general public concerned about the origin of the items and, since we treat every report very seriously, this distracts our organisations from keeping the public safe," the spokesman added.