Members of the Save the Dal campaign are calling on everyone to help celebrate the Dalriada Hospital and MS Respite Unit by holding a New Year’s Parade on Saturday 3rd January at 1pm.
Dr Réamaí Mathers, a spokesperson for the campaign group, said: “We are holding a celebration parade starting at The Dal. This is the community’s opportunity to again make their voice heard, to say Keep The Dal! Already there are people studying options for how best the hospital can be used in the future. We are keen to work with The Northern Trust, but first the ‘trust’ between the organisation and our community has to be rebuilt. We askeveryone to come out and represent your organisation in a dignified rally. This is a celebration event but it will also mark the beginning of the next phase of our campaign, and let all know that this community is as resolute as ever in protecting and strengthening our local services.”
The past two months have undoubtedly been a rollercoaster ride for the communities in Moyle and North Antrim. When the Northern Health and Social Care Trust announced its closure of the Dalriada Hospital and MS Respite Unit in Ballycastle there was an almost instantaneous up-swell of community feeling that has rarely been experienced in this or any community.
Within hours of the announcement to close the hospital, affectionately known as The Dal, a massive and sustained public campaign which included mass street demonstrations, hundreds of engagements and meetings, as well as an international social media campaign.
The ‘Save The Dal’ campaign has to be admired. While there was a huge out-pouring of raw emotion and real anger, the campaign always remained dignified. Indeed during a difficult period of multi Party negotiations at Stormont, it was remarked by many that The ‘Save The Dal’ campaign provided leadership to those politicians on ‘The Hill’ by running a campaign that was one of the best examples of cross community cohesion and political lobbying.
Indeed the judge in his granting of Interim Relief emphasised the political unity that had been shown, in what has been coined ‘the people’s campaign.’
While the campaign to save The Dal has had a huge public profile, behind the scenes groups of dedicated volunteers have began the process of interrogating the information behind the proposal and pointing out the flaws in The Northern Health and Social Care Trust’s case for the closure of the Dalriada Hospital.
This group have prepared economic papers, medical questions, ministerial briefings and freedom of information questions, as well as providing detailed information to the legal team, who won the first step in the legal action taken against the closure, which had been brought forward by MS sufferer Philomena McKay.
The Save the Dal Campaign has up until now been hugely successful, with all 32 beds reopened. However, the community is far from complacent. Already over the past number of weeks, a group of people have been working on a substantive case which they plan to bring forward to the Trust, Health Board and Minister early in the New Year, to firmly place Dalriada on the healthcare map for the entire Northern Trust area.
The public interest has only been increased given the recent announcement by the Trust to withdraw their consultation on the temporary closure of the service. While currently there is no proposal now on the table to close the local hospital, the people remain vigilant, and a public rally has been organised for the first Saturday of the New Year.