Thousands of people lined the streets of Waterford city yesterday, protesting against the recent downgrade of the city and potential downgrade of Waterford Regional Hospital. Sean Defoe of The Daily Shift has more…
More than 12,000 people turned out for the protest, making it the largest in Waterford for many decades.
Originally the rally was sparked by the downgrading of Waterford’s City status, as reported by The Daily Shift here. However, a leaked report this week revealed a potential downgrade of Waterford Regional Hospital; the report alluded to the loss of heart and cancer care services in the region.
These revelations influenced turnout considerably, despite a statement in the Dáil on Thursday by Minister for Health, James Reilly in which he promised that cancer care in the region would be untouched.
Fine Gael TD’s Paudie Coffey and John Paul Phelan attended the protest. When asked by RTÉ’s Damien Tiernan if they would vote against the government if they had to, both responded by saying they will have to consider their position if it comes to that situation.
Protesters gathered in Ballybricken at the top of the town and after several speeches, marched down the hill, along the quay and into John Roberts Square. In the square they joined with members of the ‘Waterford Gives a Shirt’ campaign, which gathered 30 black sacks full of shirts during the day according to the campaigns Facebook page.
The ‘Waterford Gives a Shirt’ campaign wants to send the following message:
“Waterford has nothing left to give except our shirts so we’re having a big collection to give to the Government so that they can have those too.”
The protest was organised through Facebook by two local women, Gillian Savage Corcoran and Andrea Galgey. They admitted today that they thought it would fail; “we thought we’d be able to turn around and go ‘oh we tried, we’ll cancel it.’ But it didn’t happen, nobody would let us.”
Organisers hope that the high numbers will force the government to take the region more seriously. What is clear is that there is a huge amount of hurt and anger in the South-East region and it was on show in force on Saturday.