Crowds unite in bid to save St Christopher’s

Nearly 3,000 people marched in Longford town on Friday to protest at the cuts to St Christopher's Services. Photo: Michelle Ghee. www.gphotos.ie
The HSE is under intense pressure this week to safeguard the long term future of St Christopher’s after close to 3,000 people took part in a mass protest over ongoing cuts at the Longford based service provider.

The HSE is under intense pressure this week to safeguard the long term future of St Christopher’s after close to 3,000 people took part in a mass protest over ongoing cuts at the Longford based service provider.

Service users, together with their families and members of the public braved driving wind and rain for last Friday’s demonstration.

As huge crowds gathered, many brandished placards and voiced their anger, giving a clear indication about the depth of feeling surrounding the issue in Longford.

Local councillors were there too, as were constituency TDs Robert Troy (Fianna Fail) and James Bannon (Fine Gael).

But it was the unequivocal message delivered to HSE chiefs and government leaders to arrest the facility’s €450,000 funding shortage for which the day will ultimately be remembered.

“The message here is very simple,” said the service’s defiant CEO Pat O’Toole.

“We have taken €780,000 in cuts since 2008. At that time the slogan was ‘Do more with less’.

“ We have done more with less. We are tired of hearing that particular slogan. The time for talking is over.”

They were words which were echoed by Longford Unite Project Chairperson, Sinead Larkin.

She said the huge turnout illustrated just how critical facilities like St Christopher’s were to the people of Longford.

Liz Hourican, Chairperson of St Christopher’s Parents’ Association was equally vocal.

“St Christopher’s Services is what it is today because of the families and our friends and the outstanding dedication of our staff,” she told those watching on from a virtually silent Market Square.

“It’s a disgrace that in 2014 we are on the streets to maintain the services our children deserve.”

But arguably the biggest cheer of the day came when service user Linda McGee took the microphone.

Encouraging demonstrators to chant “SOS, SOS”, Linda poignantly remarked:

“I love St Christopher’s and so does everybody in Longford.

“Please don’t let St Christopher’s close.”

For more on this story, see this week’s Longford Leader.