Wells acknowledges Dalriada ‘reassurance’ letter

Health Minister Jim Wells
Health Minister Jim Wells

Health Minister Jim Wells has revealed his predecessor gave a written assurance that there were “no plans to curtail future services” at the Dalriada Hospital.

The Ballycastle facility, for MS sufferers and those in need of palliative care, is due close its doors later this month.

Health Minister Jim Wells meets Dalriada Hospital protestors at Parliament Bulidings on Monday afternoon. PICTURE STEVEN MCAULEY/MCAULEY MULTIMEDIA

Health Minister Jim Wells meets Dalriada Hospital protestors at Parliament Bulidings on Monday afternoon. PICTURE STEVEN MCAULEY/MCAULEY MULTIMEDIA

During an Assembly debate on Monday, Mr Wells said the previous minister Edwin Poots had indeed written the letter. However, Mr Wells said he has been advised the letter was not a guarantee.

He said: “The advice that I am getting is that there was not [a guarantee], but I accept that it is germane to the argument about the future of Dalriada”.

The minister was responding to a question from TUV leader Jim Allister.

Mr Allister had asked: “Is it the case that, in this very year, correspondence was issued assuring the future of Dalriada? If that is correct, did that not create a legitimate expectation that the minister should feel honour-bound to live up to?”

Speaking afterwards, the TUV leader said the revelation “introduces a radically new dimension” into the debate on the proposed closure of Dalriada.

He added: “Minister Wells should now do the decent thing and stand by the assurance given”.

A number of people protesting against the closure were at Stormont on Monday where they met Mr Wells on the steps of Parliament Buildings.

Accompanying the protesters was Ballycastle SDLP councillor and chairman of Moyle Council Donal Cunningham.

Cllr Cunningham said: “We will not stand idly by as the axe of austerity cuts into the life and soul of our area and damages our ability to care for the sick and vulnerable”.