STUDENTS and lecturers at the Sligo Regional Technical College are boycotting part of a newly acquired college building that houses psychiatric patients, writes John Walshe, Dublin.
The expanding college is next to the hospital, which was due to disperse the patients - some of whom had been resident for decades - into community care during the summer. But an industrial dispute delayed the transfer and the patients were still housed there when term began.
Although they were in separate parts of the building, the students claim patients have disrupted lectures. In one instance a patient reportedly sat at the rear of the lecture hall demanding a pair of shoes, while in another a patient joined in the lecture and delayed it for 20 minutes.
The North Western Health Board blamed its own employees, who mounted an unofficial picket. They claimed it was impossible to ensure privacy and safety for patients and students.
Students and lecturers decided to withdraw from the premises while urgent efforts continued to resolve the difficulties.
The college is seeking temporary accommodation for students until the patients are moved.