I was very proud of the people of Roscommon last Saturday when they turned out in huge numbers to support the efforts to save the Cuisle holiday centre in Donamon. Apart from the 45 or so people who will lose their jobs (a huge blow for the area), this amenity is loved by the people who use it and over the past week or so we have heard of their experiences in Donamon over the years.
However, while it was really uplifting to see such a big crowd there on Saturday, and it was equally satisfying to hear the passion in the speeches of everyone who spoke, I am very pessimistic about the chances of this campaign being a success.
We have had several major public protests in the past here in Roscommon and the powers that be have not passed the slightest bit of heed on them. As far as I can see, the only thing that will change the minds of the Irish Wheelchair Association on this issue is if Simon Harris or Leo Varadkar step in and tells them to stall or reverse their decision. Minister Finian McGrath seems to have no say at all and the board of the IWA are oblivious to the strength of public opinion here in Roscommon. In fact, they couldn’t care less about the views of people here.
Minister McGrath has actually endorsed the decision taken by the IWA (to close Cuisle), so, given those circumstances, it will be very difficult to prevent this closure proceeding this Friday.
It is desperately frustrating to hear stories like that of the printer in the Houses of the Oireachtas which will have cost over €1m by the time it is in operation. That is pretty close to the sum that is needed to carry out the necessary refurbishments at Cuisle.
I am full of admiration for the people in the community in Donamon and surrounding areas for their passion and commitment to the ‘Save Cuisle’ cause, but it won’t be enough. At the end of the day, there’s a political dimension to all of this and unless a political decision is made to ensure the closure is averted, it’s curtains for Cuisle.
What our politicians have to do now is to lobby the Minister for Health and the Taoiseach to get involved – or else this cause will be lost. The minimum requirement would be for the decision to be put on hold for at least 12 months to give breathing space for the refurbishment work to be carried out and/or for an alternative plan to be agreed for the full use of what is a magnificent facility.
Cuisle is not only a respite and holiday centre for the service-users, it is also a huge asset to the local community. So many events have been held there over the years. The setting is fantastic and it would be a crying shame if the doors of this facility were to close this weekend.
This decision was announced only three weeks ago and I know that it’s late in the day but the doors of Cuisle must not be allowed to close this Friday. If that happens, it will be impossible to open them again (in an IWA context). We cannot afford to lose another vital piece of community infrastructure from our county.
Over to you Simon and Leo – tell the IWA that Cuisle must not close.