Gerard lights the way for others

By Gemma Burns

A North Belfast man who lost his son to suicide seven years ago has been chosen as one of the London 2012 Olympic torchbearers who will carry the iconic flame across the North. Oldpark man Gerard McCartan, whose son Danny took his own life in 2005, has been a member of PIPS suicide support group along with his wife Carol for a number of years campaigning for better mental health care in the north.

He has been chosen as one of the 400 people in the North who will carry the flame before the Olympic opening ceremony in London on July 27.

Gerard said he is honoured and delighted to be taking his place in history as one of the bearers of the flame.

“I can’t believe it, I was just so shocked when they told me I would be carrying the torch,” he said. “I don’t know if I will be carrying it through North Belfast yet but there is a route through here so I hope that will be the section I am running. The torch has great history and obviously I am delighted to be one of the people involved.

“I also like to think that the Olympic flame is a flame that never goes out and that for anyone who is feeling sad or depressed that there is light at the end of the tunnel and maybe that symbolises it.”

After the death of their son in April 2005 Gerard and Carol campaigned for better understanding of how patients with mental health issues are treated.  Their pressure led to then health minister Shaun Woodward ordering an independent review into the case, which found that Danny had been failed by the statutory agencies.

Gerard McCartan was also involved with the Protect Life strategy to help reduce the North’s suicide rate.

He said after the heartbreak of losing his son, joining the history books as an Olympic torchbearer is another way of paying tribute to his memory.

“I will be remembering Danny and everyone who lost a loved one to suicide,” he said.

“I think that North Belfast can get bad press when this is a good place with good people. I’m pleased that North Belfast will be benefit from this.”

North Belfast MLA and Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said it was a real opportunity for the entire island to shine.

“The relay will showcase and celebrate our torchbearers who are inspirational people who do so much for their local communities,” she said.

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