We joined the ‘Save Cuisle’ Rally as it wound its way into Abbey Street. Although the context is sad, it was a sight that made you proud. This was a terrific turnout, a great show of support for service users and staff.
The Cuisle Holiday Centre at Donamon has been at the heart of the community in Roscommon for over 20 years. The shock announcement by the IWA of its decision to close the facility was announced on Friday, 1st of November – and is scheduled to take effect this Friday. There are over 40 jobs at stake. Service users are devastated. It is a serious blow to the local economy. And there is deep – and legitimate – anger at the manner in which this is being done.
Saturday’s rally was a peaceful show of solidarity with the people most affected. It was very heartening to see the huge turnout; yet there was an inevitable sadness in the air.
The politicians raised their voices (well, some of them did), calling on all their oratorical skills to maximise the impact of what they were saying. The enemy was the IWA board. The crowd cheered the soundbytes, the words of defiance. But the clock kept ticking.
Danny Burke, by any measure a truly great Roscommon man, was an apt rallying MC for a momentous rally. His heart would bleed primrose and blue. Naturally, Danny had to evaluate the turnout in the context of past GAA-related gatherings in the county town. And the Castlerea man reckoned this crowd was more than a match for the numbers that assembled for feted Roscommon teams in 1979, ’80 and 2006!
Two men with tambourines stood in front of me. Others held placards and signs aloft. There were perhaps 2,000 or so people present. The county town had come to a standstill. On the back of a lorry supplied by Glancy’s Fruit & Veg (from which two Roscommon flags fluttered), our local reps threw all they had at the IWA.
Danny spoke of service users who had tears in their eyes when they heard of the shock closure. Cllr. Paschal Fitzmaurice called for the board of the IWA to stand down. Others spoke in a similar vein. All wanted a stay of execution. It has come to this; we are effectively begging an arrogant IWA hierarchy to defer closure. But it’s the right approach. We are where we are. What we need now is more time.
Senator Ronan Mullen made a good point. Tell the IWA we can find the elusive €1.1m or so – or the bulk of it – and essentially call their bluff. The IWA has said electrical works are required, to the tune of €1.1m or so. Mind you, they have given mixed messages, also talking of the need to move to a new model of care, before playing an ‘asbestos card’ at last week’s Oireachtas Health Committee meeting. Three reasons to close a facility they proclaim to love.
The speakers, some of them at least, also made it clear that Minister Finian McGrath is in their firing line. He ought not to expect the Freedom of Roscommon any time soon.
When the speeches had ended, and the cheers had died down, it was left to Danny Burke to make some sense of it all. He thanked everyone who had made the rally such a success, and repeated the message to the IWA: this closure ought not to go ahead, and the people of Roscommon – supported by service users and politicians from around the country – are fiercely opposed to it.
The problem, we all agreed, was that the IWA doesn’t appear to be listening, Minister McGrath doesn’t appear to be listening, and there’s no proactive intervention by Government or the HSE. We appear to be whistling in the wind, no fault of ours. And we’re not paranoid in rural Ireland; this devastating closure almost certainly would not happen in an urban constituency with a senior Government Minister.
By 2.35 pm on Saturday, it was all over. A fantastic turnout. A strong message sent. But still a sense of foreboding. We dispersed, with our signs, our tambourines and our sense of injustice. We were defiant, but there was also an air of resignation, a sense, on this beautiful day, that dark clouds were not far away.
Printer-gate: A heartwarming tale
From the people who brought you the €54m electronic voting fiasco, the culture which saw Irish Water spend €70m on consultants, and the ‘€500 a week on Bertie Ahern’s make-up’ classic, comes a new heartwarming tale. The Houses of Oireachtas needed a new printer. They got one, at a cost of €808,000. When it emerged that it would not fit where it was meant to go – because the wrong measurements had been taken – they paid an extra €230,000 plus to resolve the issue. Finally, staff are refusing to be trained on how to use it until they receive a pay rise.
It is understood that the printer, when operational, will be able to print off the the latest homeless figures and details of the numbers of patients on hospital trolleys (in colour)…