Ballymoney Town Hall was packed out on Wednesday night for a public meeting to oppose proposals to close The Roddens care home in Ballymoney.
There were cheers and tears during the proceedings which saw concerned relatives, staff and members of the public being urged to “wrap a ring of steel” around The Roddens.
Chaired by independent East Londonderry MLA Claire Sugden, the meeting heard from union representatives and elected representatives as well as staff and concerned members of the public.
Opening the meeting Claire Sugden said that The Roddens is the only statutory residential care home on the north coast and she said it would be very “disappointing” if it were lost,
Deputy Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Cllr Darryl Wilson said that the uncertainty over the future of the Roddens had resulted in elderly people feeling “fear and uncertainty” instead of the sense of “safety and security” that they deserved.
He said that the NHS is “under immense pressure” so closing the Roddens would “exacerbate” that situation and create “bed blocking”.
Urging as many people as possible to sign the petitions which are circulating around shops and churches in the town, Cllr Wilson called on the Health Minister to “lift the ban on admissions” to The Roddens and give the facility the support it deserves.
NIPSA Deputy General Secretary Alison Millar compared the threat of closing The Roddens to “someone coming to my front door and saying ‘your time is up here’
“The Roddens is a home to the people who live there.
“We must not allow the Trust to kick these people out of their houses.”
She spoke of how The Roddens is an integral part of the town of Ballymoney, part of the community.
“We must not allow the Northern Trust to relinquish their statutory duty, we must ensure that The Roddens is saved. This is just the start of the campaign and NIPSA are fully committed to supporting you.”
UNISON’S Stephanie Greenwood urged the campaign members to “wrap a ring of steel around The Roddens” to protect it from closure.
She said that the community needed to “come together on all sides like never before” and encouraged the public to “form queues outside politicians’ offices, demand that they fight for you, write to your MP, write to the media, ring the Press, sign petitions and turn out in big numbers.”
“Look around this room tonight, look at the support you already have.
“This is not about saving a building, this is about saving residential care and fighting one step at a time.”
Carmel Gates of NIPSA also addressed the meeting and said that there are £120 billion of unpaid taxes in the UK.
“That is enough to pay for a hell of a lot of Roddens,” she said to huge applause.
“The people who created this economic crisis are not the people who live in The Roddens.
“The people in The Roddens built the welfare state, built the National Health Service, working people did this and we have to stand strong with them.”
There were also speeches from UUP MLA Robin Swann, DUP councillors Ian Stevenson and Alan McLean and TUV councillor William Blair.
Meeting organiser Roger Doherty said that all councillors in the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council area had been invited to attend the meeting, as had all MLAs from North Antrim and East Londonderry.
The Northern Trust, which was also invited, said it would be inappropriate to attend prior to the public consultation.