Upgrade Work a Sign of a Hardening Border? O’Murchú

Is upgrading work at a former British Army base in South Armagh a sign of a hardening of the border ahead of Brexit?

That’s the question that Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú is seeking the answer to after he raised the issue of work activity on Forkhill Mountain with Minister for European Affairs, Helen McEntee TD, in Leinster House on June 11.

The Louth TD visited the remote mountain-top site on Forkhill Mountain ahead of his contribution in Leinster House during a debate about Brexit. He was joined by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council representative, Cllr. Declan Murphy.

Mr Ó Murchú said he had been prompted to go to the site after receiving ‘worrying’ reports from people who live in the area about large scale activity on the mountaintop the previous week.

He said that what he saw on the mountain corroborated what he had been told by concerned residents.

Mr Ó Murchú said: “Forkhill Mountain is just half a mile from the border. It was previously the site of a major military installation for the British Army and they officially left in 2006.

“However, the helipad and other remnants of their time at this outpost remain. What I saw on Thursday was a heavily fortified area, which contained a massive mast, with a number of satellite dishes on it, along with six sizable steel container-style structures, some of which emit loud whirring noises. Telecommunications infrastructure, at least one sizable camera, has been maintained and upgraded and major works have taken place recently.

“This was all surrounded with high grade steel fencing, with barbed wire at the top. It is sited right at the peak of Forkill Mountain, which gives unrivalled and uninterrupted views right over Dundalk, Ravensdale and all the way to Carlingford Lough.

Locals have told Mr Ó Murchú that on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week (June 3, 4 and 5 2020), numerous vehicles and huge amount of personnel were on the site including 5/6 Police cars and a further 6/7 ‘civilian’ vans.

“In addition, there was a Bogmaster vehicle brought up the mountain. 

“The last similar sized operation on the site happened at the end of October 2019 and it has been reported that there are regular smaller visits three or four times a month. During some operations helicopters have been used to carry equipment and personnel to the site.”

Mr Ó Murchú said “locals have previously been told the equipment was for
ambulance and fire service communications, but there are fears this is not the case.

“There were also reports that the PSNI admitted that British army engineers were involved in the October operation.”  

The Sinn Féin TD raised the issue in Leinster House on Thursday with Minister McEntee, and asked her to contact the British government to get clarity on these operations.

“We welcome the fact that the Irish Government have stated that they are, and have been, committed to ensuring the border community is protected and no border infrastructure is developed.

“However, there is a low level of trust among the people of North Louth and South Armagh that the British government would keep their word on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Irish Protocol. 

“The people of the border area need certainty from both Governments that no border infrastructure hard or soft will be erected.”

 

Minister’s commitments to Sruthán House welcome – Ó Murchú

Sinn Féin general election candidate Ruairí Ó Murchú has attended a visit to Sruthán House by Minister of State for Disabilities, Finian McGrath. 
 
During the Ministerial visit, which took place earlier today, Minister McGrath voiced his commitment to keeping Sruthán House open. 
 
Councillor Ó Murchú said,
 
“I have fully supported the campaign for the retention of respite services at Sruthán House. 
 
“The people who stay in Sruthán House and their families are a community and since closure was threatened they have voiced their overwhelming support for the facility. 
 
“Last month I attended a specially convened meeting during which the HSE confirmed that, following a period of consultation, the decision had been made to keep Sruthán House open. 
 
“The Minister’s visit and comments today have further demonstrated the success of the campaign mounted by service users when faced with the possibility of closure. 
 
“I understand that there are a number of actions which the HSE will now undertake to ensure that Sruthán House will provide the optimum service and value for money. 
 
“I will do everything I can to ensure the excellent service provided by staff at Sruthán House is maintained and enhanced.”

Munster: Reverse Cruel Withdrawal of Versatis Patches

Munster calls on Taoiseach to reverse cruel withdrawal of Versatis (Lidocaine) painrelief patches

Speaking in the Dáil this week Sinn Féin TD for Louth Imelda Munster urged the Taoiseach to reverse the blatant cost cutting exercise of restricting access to the pain relief patches Versatis(Lidocaine) for people who are suffering from severe and chronic pain.

Deputy Munster said:

“According to the Chairman of the National Association of General Practitioners the system introduced by the Government has seen 86% of GP applications for the drug on behalf of their patients turned down.

“These patches are a lifeline for patients who are in chronic pain to ensure some sort of quality of life. Many who cannot afford to buy the patches suffer daily and are confined to their their homes as a result.

“One such patient in my own constituency who is almost doubled over such is the severity of his pain, has said he is regularly housebound because he cannot pay for the patches and that he no longer has any quality of life.

“General Practitioners have stated that the Taoiseach’s claim that the ‘withdrawal was based on patient safety’ is utter nonsense and I have called on him to listen to the medical professionals and patients and reverse this callous cost cutting exercise.”

It is clear that this decision was made as a cost cutting exercise taking no account whatsoever of the effect this would have on the quality of life for people who suffer daily with chronic pain.

Deputy Munster said:

I have also written to the Minister for Health asking him to reverse this cruel cost saving measure.

Absence of Winter Initiative shows chaos in Health – Adams

Louth Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams has described the fact that the Minister for Health has not yet produced a Winter Initiative for 2018/19 as ‘ominous’.

Deputy Adams said;

“It is clear that many years of underinvestment in frontline health services and staff have resulted in what can only be described as a permanent state of crisis in our healthcare system.

“In our hospitals, which provide acute care to the most vulnerable people, we witnessed record levels of overcrowding during the summer due to a shortage of beds and inadequate care availability in the community.

“Relentless pressure on staff has led to a crisis in the recruitment and retention of nurses.  

“Just yesterday nursing and midwifery delegates belonging to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses Association voted to reject government proposals which do not sufficiently deal with the issue of pay, setting the scene for industrial action.

“The Minister is well aware that the winter presents increased challenges to Emergency Departments, yet in a reply to a parliamentary question which I tabled earlier this month, he admits that preparations have only begun at hospital and local level.

“In 2016 the Winter Initiative was published on 9th September.  But this year Minister Harris has confirmed that he has not yet even met with all of the chairpersons of the hospital groups.

“Coupled with the ominous absence of a winter initiative, there are currently 169 staff vacancies across Emergency Departments.

“The Minister has informed me that he has filled these vacancies through the use of expensive agency staff and overtime arrangements – this is not acceptable and it is not sustainable.

“The Minister has been in situ for over two years, he must step up to the mark to ensure safe levels of care in our hospitals this coming winter.”

Cllr Anne Campbell: Minor Injuries Unit age limit delayed again

Cllr Anne Campbell

The long-promised reduction in the age of patients cared for at the Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) at the Louth County Hospital has been delayed yet again, according to Councillor Anne Campbell.

The Sinn Féin Councillor has revealed that “it could now be as late as the end of September before the MIU will be in a position to drop the age limit from its current 14 years to five.”

The news came after Cllr. Campbell asked a question about the facility at the Regional Health Forum meeting in Kells on Monday.

She said: “Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams, along with Cllr. Tomás Sharkey, and I have been consistently asking when the MIU will drop the age limit after it was announced by Health Minister Simon Harris as far back as February last year.

“In November, when the Fine Gael leadership was in Louth, it was announced with a great fanfare that this would happen in the first quarter of 2018 but when that deadline passed, both Gerry Adams and I continued to ask when it would happen.

“We were subsequently told in March that the plan was to have the reduction in place by the end of June, but following my question to the RSCI Hospital Group, who run the Louth County, it has been revealed that it could be as late as September this year.

“This is a dreadful state of affairs for parents in the area, like myself, who have children under the current 14 years limit. Dozens and dozens are faced with travelling to Drogheda again this summer, despite the promises from Minister Harris and the Fine Gael party. Apart from anything else, lowering the age limit would alleviate the pressure on Drogheda hospital which is already overloaded and at breaking point.

“We will continue to press for the earliest possible introduction of this service and I intend to raise it once more at the next health forum meeting in July, where I will be asking what exactly the RCSI has been doing for the past 16 months to put this important measure in place. I Hope Minister Harris didn’t think he would make a grand announcement to grab a positive headline and then people would forget about it, because I can assure him, I am not letting this go. I will continue to pursue this until such times that 5 year old can be treated at the MIU in Louth Hospital.”