Hundreds of people have been protesting outside Leinster House against the Government's failure to spend €12m earmarked for mental health services this year.

The demonstration, which has attracted many service users and their relatives, has been organised by the Mental Health Reform coalition and the Union of Students in Ireland.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said the money could not be spent this year because extra staff who it was envisaged it would be spent on could not be hired on time.

He has promised that the money would be spent next year instead. 

But at today's demonstration, MHR Director Shari McDaid said the Government should be imaginative and spend the money this year on a range of services which need extra support.

She said MHR was available to discuss its proposal with the minister.

USI President Kevin Donoghue criticised the Government's failure to spend the money this year.

The USI says there are lengthy waiting lists for counselling services in colleges throughout the State.

TDs and Senators from a range of Opposition parties are meeting the protesters to endorse their cause.

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, People Before Profit-Anti-Austerity Alliance, and Social Democrat representatives were among them.