Alice launched an Art Exhibition by Gerard McGourty (left) and Christine Bowen (Right) in the Blue Leaf Gallery on June 22nd. In her address she called for the urgent introduction of legislation to protect whistle blowers in the health, homeless and social services.

The Government’s decision to drop the proposed Whistleblower Act represents a total betrayal, especially of those in front line caring roles in the Health, Homeless and Social Services who society must count on to defend the most vulnerable in society, ALICE LEAHY, Director and Co-Founder of TRUST, the social and health service for people who are homeless, said today (Wednesday, June 22, 2005).

Speaking at the launch of an Art Exhibition in the Blue Leaf Gallery featuring the works of Gerard McGourty and Christine Bowen, ALICE LEAHY said it was highly appropriate that a call for strong legislation to protect “Whistle Blowers” should be made at an art exhibition because in a sense artists were, if they were true to their profession, whistle blowers at a deeper and essential level in enriching our lives through their unique perceptiveness.

ALICE LEAHY paid tribute to Gerard and Christine as true standard bearers of a kind of whistle blowers tradition in the realm of the senses in terms of helping us to see ourselves and the wider world in a much more profound and reflective way.

“I have found artists amongst the most supportive and understanding of our work, probably because in some senses to be effective they too must become or are forced to become outsiders,” ALICE LEAHY said describing her experience over the years working with society’s outsiders, those who find themselves homeless on our streets,

Urging more action to make it easy for those in front line roles especially in the health and social services to be given protection to speak out ALICE LEAHY said that the voices of the most marginalised will not be heard unless those who look after them everyday are given the necessary support and protection to speak out in their defence.

“People who work with the outsiders in society often end up being treated like outsiders themselves, especially when they try to speak out on their behalf. Nurses are very vulnerable, as I know from personal experience as a nurse myself, and only something like a strong “Whistleblower Act” offers any hope of real change in our Health Service, especially in terms of protecting the interests of the most vulnerable,” ALICE LEAHY said..

“We saw in the recent Prime Time programme what can happen to elderly people when their rights are not safe guarded. A “Whistleblower Act” offers the best hope of helping to create a culture where the patient will always come first because those who want to defend the most vulnerable will not be forced to suffer or loose their jobs for doing the right thing.”

Alice Leahy said that at a time when there was so much wrong with the Health Service, those with the most knowledge about what is really going on must be protected when they speak out and the case for a “Whistleblower Act” for nurses in particular is overwhelming, though obviously it should cover the entire public service.

We are probably unique in Europe when you have the Minister for Health, a few months ago, accusing the management of “systemic maladministration” a statement, few who work in the front line in the Health Service, would disagree ALICE LEAHY said.

“We constantly hear complaints that the health services are insensitive to people’s needs and allegations that unfeeling bureaucracy is out of touch. In most cases this is true but only because those in the frontline with the knowledge and experience are not consulted. However, it is even more important that they have the legal protection to speak out when the need arises, especially at a time when health professionals who take time to care properly for their patients are made to feel they are ‘wasting time with people’ ” Alice Leahy said.

“The undervaluing of human contact and front line care has made life especially difficult for the outsiders in society, who we meet everyday. A philosophy of caring is good for people but it is also the most “economic” in the long-term. We would argue for it even if it was more expensive but the evidence available suggests the opposite is the case and an even greater irony is that the current management philosophy which is supposed to expose inefficiency has only served to help senior mangers maintain a cover up, not least by tending to treat people who speak out as part of the problem,” ALICE LEAHY said.