Hundreds of protesters march on HSE offices in west

HUNDREDS of protesters marched on health authority offices in counties Galway and Mayo yesterday demanding an end to cuts in disability services.

Around 1,000 braved the elements in Galway city as protesters marched from the cathedral to the HSE West offices close to University College Hospital. The march, which was organised by the parents’ group Hope for Disability, was held in solidarity with Dublin march by Inclusion Ireland.

The Brothers of Charity, the largest service provider, warned that any further cuts would have a devastating impact on families. The Brothers of Charity says that it is facing cuts of over €4 million this year, on top of €1.8m sought last year.

The organisation says it has already started to use reserves to keep respite and other key services open.

The chairman of Hope for Disability, Eamonn Walsh, addressed the demonstrators gathered at Galway Cathedral and said that the HSE was trotting out ‘farcical nonsense’ about not cutting budgets.

“In 21st century Ireland, in a so-called modern society and on the back of the euphoria of the Special Olympics, how can they let this happen?” he said.

John Hennessy, HSE West regional director of operations, reiterated yesterday that frontline services would not be affected.

But Brothers of Charity acting director Anne Geraghty says her board was informed by HSE West last Friday that it had a projected shortfall of €15.5m and would seek €4m of this from voluntary agencies.

More than 50 people demonstrated in Castlebar, Co Mayo. Most were parents of people who will be affected by the cutbacks. Marchers, who included members of Down’s Syndrome, Mayo, and Disability Ireland walked to the HSE offices at Mayo General Hospital, to hand in a letter of protest.

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