Amnesty International UK chairman resigns after outcry over jokes mocking mental illness on Twitter

Charity apologises after 26-year-old posted tweets mocking people with schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder

The chairman of Amnesty International UK has resigned from his post after a string of jokes about mental health issues caused an outcry on Twitter.

Ciarnan Helferty, 26, made fun of people suffering from schizophrenia, OCD, and then anyone in a mental hospital, in a series of insensitive Tweets going back to 2010.

The charity’s board issued a statement in the form of a letter to all its members yesterday, in which it said Mr Helferty’s use of social media was “incongruent with the policy and aims of Amnesty International”.

In some of the most recent posts on his Twitter profile, from 26 July, Mr Helferty apologised to anyone who had been offended, saying: “Understand the concern and apologies for any offence or embarrassment caused by my poor choice of humour.”

The letter from the board, written by vice-chair Sarah O’Grady, said that criticism on the site followed “jokes about mental health”, and that “Ciarnan immediately apologised and referred himself for investigation under the Board Code of Conduct”.

Ms O’Grady added: “In resigning, Ciarnan has demonstrated personal integrity and responsibility. His actions also emphasise that remarks of this nature are not appropriate for someone leading an organisation at the forefront of the human rights debate.”

In one of the tweets Mr Helferty posted: “When one door closes, another one opens. Jeeze... I hate this OCD.” And in another he said: “I've decided to enter the that BBC TV singing contest for schizophrenics - The Voices.”

And according to US news website The Daily Beast, as recently as the 10 July he posted: “Being popular online is like sitting at the cool table in the canteen… In a mental hospital.”

Mr Helferty has stood down with immediate effect, but returned to Twitter yesterday to say: “I certainly intend to stay with amnesty”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect