Minister of State with responsibility for mental health Kathleen Lynch has called on the Health Service Executive to lift the moratorium on recruitment in that sector to allow 100 staff to be taken on.

She said the Department of Health had sanctioned the 100 staff last year, but she said the HSE had paused their recruitment.

The minister was speaking after she and four deputies - Joe Costello, Derek Keating, Alex White and Maureen O'Sullivan -visited St Brendan’s Hospital in Grangegorman this morning.

There was controversy recently when five women patients were moved from an open to a closed unit for six weeks due to staff issues.

On Monday, the minister said she had been assured by the HSE that the women would be allowed free movement and would not be locked in.

The minister also said today that she had spoken to the relatives and staff about the issue.

She said that two private operators had offered to house the women in their facilities during the Christmas, but the minister said clinical consideration would have to be given to whether this would cause further disruption to them.