Fine Gael Presidential candidate Gay Mitchell has landed himself in hot water after a suicide gaff on live radio.
Mitchell threatened to throw himself off O’Connell Bridge and into the Liffey if anyone else asks him to smile.
But the comments have been slammed by those working to prevent suicide in Ireland, a topic Mitchell has campaigned for in his election bid thus far.
The Fine Gael candidate has repeatedly claimed that one of his election priorities is to fight the increase in the number of suicides across Ireland, particularly amongst young people.
Now his throwaway remark has been branded as ‘disgusting and disgraceful’ by a leading campaigner.
Angered by suggestions that his campaign is lackluster on the George Hook radio show, Mitchell responded: “If anybody says to me anymore ‘Smile’ I will jump off O’Connell Bridge.”
Earlier he had said that: “Suicide is a horror that stalks the land, claiming 600 people a year.”
Now Peter Moroney, a mainstay of the Save Our Sons and Daughters campaign, has criticized Mitchell and labeled his comments as unwelcome.
“Gay Mitchell’s comment was flippant and disgusting. It shows a complete lack of understanding and compassion. It was disgraceful,” said Moroney whose son Simon committed suicide in 2003.
Irish Association of Suicidology founder John Connolly described the comments as ‘unfortunate’.
But suicide campaigner Joan Freeman from the Pieta House claimed: “It is clear the remark was not intended to cause hurt.”
Mitchell had spoken at length about the suicide issue in Ireland at the official launch of his Presidential campaign. He said: “I’m talking about suicide. A suicide counselor 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.
ring light to each other’s darkness.”
Pressed later about the success of his campaign to date on the Newstalk radio show, Mitchell expressed disappointment at the public perception of his personality.
He said: “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.”