April 10th we're taking to the streets

APRIL 10th 2009. O'CONNELL STREET, SLIGO The people of the northwest are taking the lead countrywide and taking back whats rightfully theirs.

The campaign is inviting all health groups from across the region to join them in their 'Great Friday' march.

We are no longer asking for our services to be left alone, we are demanding it.
We are taking back our Health Services, Our Hospitals and Our Rights.
We no longer recognise the Minister for Health Mary Harney.
We no longer recognise the authority of the HSE
We no longer recognise and actively oppose any body (political or otherwise) that opposes fair and equitable health services for all.


Mary 'I see dead people' Coughlan

A year ago before becoming Tánaiste, Mary Coughlan promises campaigners she supports the retention of cancer services in Sligo and will do all she can to help her hospital. After 6 months of ignored letters, emails and phonecalls, 4 members of the campaign (myself included) travel to Donegal town to the now Tánaistes constituency office. The idea was that a hand delivered request for a meeting couldnt possibly be ignored, we're in a democracy after all and these people work for us, dont they?

The reception was not exactly welcoming, with Coughlans staff of three refusing to give their names and then threatening to call police! We were less then politely ushered off the property and it would be over 5 months later before we finally came face to face with the Sarah Palin of Donegal.
For some inexlicable reason the management of Sligo General decided that Coughlan was the right person to invite to open a new unit in a hospital where the same woman was now supporting the closure of the cancer unit. The fact that Coughlan had completely turned her back on the people of the region, did a complete u-turn on her supposed support for Sligo seemed lost on them, even if everyone else noticed the glaring hypocrisy.
After postponing the event in February, the Tániste (who now apparently had the countries finances in control)visited Sligo General. And on March 6th, the management pulled out all the stops to welcome their vaunted guest. The press arrived and so did the protestors.
Arriving early, the second in command was met by some of the campaigners from north Sligo and Donegal. In her own inimitable way, she told them to forget about the cancer services 'they were gone, agreement had been reached with the GP's', this despite the fact that on not one single occasion has she spoken to the GP association regarding Sligos cancer services. She then went on to explain the reasoning behind the closure 'if Tim snuffed it, what would happen?'-- her words. The Tim she was referring to is the cancer control director for the Northwest and a consultant surgeon, one of a pair of surgeons in Sligos Oncology centre. Finally when the campaigners, angry at her idiotic and insensitive comments advised they would never vote for her again, she replied 'I couldnt care less who you vote for'-- again her words not mine.
Shortly after 5pm, we decided to go into the hospital, sick of standing outside hospitals from Galway to Dublin and back, tired of standing in every kind of weather and tired of being routinely ignored in the process, we entered our hospital determined to carry our message to the Tánaiste.

At first all seemed normal, the guards and security saw no threat and we entered unmolested. It wasn't long however, before the mood changed. The first signal came from the management themselves, who apparently were unhappy with our presence, afraid of trouble or a ruined photo opportunity. 'As long as we were left alone, there would be no disturbance' we promised but within moments the mood had changed and 18 months of frustration and anger soon started to reveal itself. As we positioned ourselves around the dias awaiting the Tánaiste, a member of her staff decided to pull a banner out of a campaigners hands, managing to push her against the wall while at the same time informing us 'that we had no right to be there as this was private grounds, it was, as they say, all downhill from there.

From the start of her speech, the air crackled with shouts of 'Liar' and 'hypocrite', the usual rehearsed drivel we've become so used to was only broken by questions about the future of cancer patients and reasons why the Tánaiste sold us all out. None were answered of course but none could be ignored either.
The cathaoirleach of Sligo, FF coucillor Jude Devins followed the Tánaiste on to the podium, obviously taking his cue from his party colleague he managed to enrage the crowd even further. His talk on 'customers' and 'customer service' drew an immiediate reaction from the crowd who still consider themselves 'patients' in need of 'health care. As he is want to do, jude looked bemused and more than a little lost but continued on with his speech to barely disguised disgust.
Fiasco, sham, publicity stunt, photo opportunity, take your pick, all were used to describe the shameful PR exercise witnessed that Friday. With the air reeking of the Tánaiste's hypocrisy, we left much as we had arrived, with a bitter taste in our mouths and the campaign on our minds. Prof Keane's due the following wednesday, so theres no time to rest or as an Tánaiste is prone to do whenever faced with a challenge, have a 'period of reflection'.
Unbeknownst to us, Coughlan had done an interview for local radio on that same Friday and had spoken freely about the economy and Irelands disappearing finances. As we listened on Monday morning to her interview, her lack of insight and understanding of all things fiscal was suddenly eclipsed by her next statement. With an unusually soft voice, Coughlan told us how people have gone to their eternal reward, wishing they had better treatment and less invasive surgery then was available at Sligo General, how there were experts but not expertise at the hospital. I had to have the interview replayed to me over the phone that night to be sure this is what I indeed heard and I was surprised to discover, that this was in fact, what she had said. Not content to talk complete nonsense about the economy, now shes communicating with the dead and has even polled them on their opinions of Sligo. General. Here was evidence of the Tánaistes renowned competitive streak, no matter how low the bar is set, she will strive to lower it even further and she manage to do just that.
To the Sarah Palin of South Donegal, we salute you, amongst a generation of bottom feeding politicans, politics has hit an all time low.
I wonder if she can see Sligo General from her house?


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