Belfast Telegraph

Hundreds show their anger at decision to shelve cancer unit

By Donna Deeney

Londonderry's Guildhall Square was transformed by protesters yesterday at a rally against the Health Minister's decision to shelve the radiotherapy centre planned for Altnagelvin.

The demonstration was part of a day of action organised by the cancer charity group the Pink Ladies. It was attended by politicians from all parties, including Foyle MP Mark Durkan and Mayor of Derry Colum Eastwood.

Despite the presence of the political figures, the day was all about the people who came from all over the north west to voice their outrage at outgoing Health Minister Michael McGimspey's announcement that the cancer unit would not go ahead in 2015.

At 1.05pm, Maureen Collins from the Pink Ladies called for a minute’s silence and a hush fell.

Ms Collins said: “Our silence is to remember the hundreds who have already made the journey for cancer treatment to either Belfast or Dublin hospitals but who have since died.

“But it is also to show our anger and outrage at Mr McGimpsey's decision.”

Addressing the crowd were three cancer survivors, Tracy Coyle from Strabane, Geraldine McGurk, founder member of the Pink Ladies, and Maisie Crawford from the Caw area of the city, who told how her sister had had to travel to Belfast for treatment.

Maisie said: “Sadly, my sister Ann died and we buried her this week on Tuesday.

“It is for her and the people like her that we must do our best.

“I told the First Minister that cancer has no boundaries and does not discriminate, and for the patients and their families we must show how much our city needs this unit.”

Many of those who assembled at the Guildhall carried posters demanding the radiotherapy centre goes ahead.

They read ‘We got the commitment, now we want the concrete’, and ‘Be Part of the First and Deputy First Minister’s Promise’.

Among those attending the rally was Roisin McAteer, who said she wanted to show support in memory of her mother Brigid who lost her battle against cancer in 2009.

She added: “My mother made the journey to Belfast day and daily for weeks because she couldn't stay up, because we were too young to leave and it took so much out of her.

“In a way the journey was worse than the treatment, but she was also so brave and kept a front up for us.

“But, in spite of all, she died.”

A similar story was told by Peter Montgomery, who said the unit “literally was a matter of life and death for the people of the north west”.

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