Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

U-turner Edwin Poots... spot politician who protested about home closure he's now backing

Edwin Poots
Edwin Poots

As an MLA, Edwin Poots joined protesters at Stormont to demand a residential home – Skeagh House, near Dromore – must not close.

Now, four years on as Health Minister, the home is to shut – as a result of his Transforming Your Care strategy.

The home – where he insisted residents must not be treated like "pallets in a warehouse" – is one of five earmarked for closure in the Southern Health Trust area.

And a motion slamming Mr Poots over the closure of residential homes has been tabled in the Assembly – identical to one the DUP minister proposed himself.

The attempt to embarrass Mr Poots came from hardline unionist independent Jim Allister who said the present minister is doing what he lambasted his predecessor Michael McGimpsey for.

The Traditional Unionist Voice leader repeated Mr Poots' 2009 motion word for word, although it will be up to Stormont's business committee, on which none of the Assembly independent members are represented, to decide whether it gets debated.

As the Belfast Telegraph reported yesterday, Mr Poots insisted he would neither apologise for the current policy set to close 14 homes in the Northern and Southern Trusts, nor for his stance four years ago.

During the debate at the time, he demanded Mr McGimpsey "listen to the concerns of the community" and claimed the trusts and Department of Health, which he now heads, were "clamming up and not prepared to talk to people".

Mr Poots referred specifically to one home, Skeagh House – over which he protested outside Parliament Buildings – and said "those (residents) are 102 human beings, not 102 units, 102 vehicles in a fleet or 102 pallets in a warehouse. Those are 102 human beings – people who served our community for years, in grim times. Many of them lived through the Second World War, and they all came through the worst excesses of the Troubles in Northern Ireland."

He then warned: "People do not believe politicians."

Mr Allister said: "Small wonder people do not believe politicians when they act like the minister. I have tabled the very same motion because he is doing the very thing he attacked a previous UUP minister for doing and using the same threadbare arguments to defend the indefensible."

Mr Poots replied: "What is different now is that there is a policy in place to provide better care for our elderly and create packages allowing people to stay where they want to stay."

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