Bustling Omagh fears for the future of its hospital
A&E concerns cast a shadow over proud town
Hospital closures, the economy and crime were key issues as the Belfast Telegraph Tell Us About It roadshow rolled into Omagh yesterday.
We were in the bustling Co Tyrone town to find out what issues matter to people.
We spent the day in the town centre where, despite the relentless rain, people were keen to stop and share their views on the ups and downs of Omagh life.
Later, in the Strule Arts Centre, the Belfast Telegraph’s editorial executive Martin Hill joined politicians and public figures for a lively Q&A session.
Answering questions and listening to the views of Omagh’s residents were Michael Cunningham, managing director of Recyco, Loraine Griffin, president of Omagh’s Chamber of Commerce, and West Tyrone councillors Glenn Campbell and Patrick McGowan.
The people we talked to in Omagh love their home town and want to see it prosper.
Several people spoke of how the community had “pulled together” and supported each other following the bomb that ripped Omagh apart over 12 years ago.
But with looming public sector budget cuts, concern was growing for the future of their hospital.
Outpatients clerical worker Avril Forsythe said “rumours and hearsay” were the only sources of information for those working at Tyrone County Hospital. She feared that closing the accident and emergency department could cost lives as well as jobs.
Worry was also expressed about the state of employment in the area, particularly in construction.
Paul Strausa suggested a focus on increasing manufacturing exports could be a lifeline to unemployed skilled local workers.
He said: “This is an area with a highly educated workforce,an ideal place for outside investment.”
The threat to benefits was mentioned but not much negativity was expressed.
William Forsythe joked: “We’re not rich enough to have our child benefit cut, it’s only those on £45,000 a year that have to worry. We finally found an upside to being poor!”
Younger residents told us they wanted more to do in the town and were also concerned about violence and anti-social behaviour.
At the weekends, we were told, drunken fights often break out,and there was a feeling of being unsafe.