Relief at St Christopher’s AGM

Rosemary Coyle (Secretary), Chairman Donal Drake, Vice  Chairman Michael Murray, and Brendan Quigley (Honorary Treasurer) at the top table during the 50th annual general meeting of St Christopher's Services. Photo: Michelle Ghee.
“We always knew they would come good in the end.”

“We always knew they would come good in the end.”

It was these words from St Christopher’s chairman Donal Drake that summed up the relieved mood last Tuesday evening as the service provider held its annual general meeting.

And it was an expression which followed a day of undoubted satisfaction as news filtered through of the HSE’s decision to underwrite the service’s ongoing cashflow difficulties.

Mr Drake, however, qualified those remarks by indicating the sudden change of heart could have been made a lot sooner.

“We didn’t think we would be left waiting until the eleventh hour though,” he said, as he brought the two hour meeting to a close.

Not surprisingly, it drew welcoming responses from those watching on from the floor below, none more so than fellow Board of Management member, Ellie Shanley.

She, like around 3,000 other concerned parents and members of the public took to the streets of Longford last month amid fears services could be forced to close.

Ms Shanley said the u-turn, which was broken on the Leader’s website last Tuesday morning came at a time when many associated with the service were in despair.

“They (parents) did not know how they were going to cope,” she told a hushed crowd or around 100 people.

“Hopefully, we as parents can look forward to a bright future and will never have to experience this type of worry again.”

Chief executive officer Pat O’Toole confessed he had already drafted his prepared address before last Tuesday’s announcement was made.

Mr O’Toole, who is also a Fianna Fail councillor, reserved special praise for t he constituency’s four serving TDs and in particular Fine Gael’s James Bannon.

He said he was well aware the Legan TD had “gone the extra mile” in lobbying Health Mini ster Leo Varadkar and Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch.

He said the decision by HSE bosses to set up a ‘service improvement team’ to review delivery levels and improve its all-round sustainability was especially pleasing.

“I’ve no doubt that when that team looks at St Christopher’s over the coming three months they will see what we all see,” Mr O’Toole said.

“That it is a highly effective, efficient facility that provides a wonderful service to the service users,” he said.

But perhaps fittingly, the spotlight fell on the man who informed the Leader late on Monday week last of the change in government mindset.

“It was a tough and hard time on everybody,” said Mr Bannon.

“And I hope that funding for St Christopher’s in future years will be put on a more stable platform going forward.”

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