Cancer centre ‘not just for Catholics’

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Derry’s on-hold cancer treatment centre won’t be “for Catholics only”, the DUP’s Gregory Campbell has warned.

Mr. Campbell spoke out after Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness claimed that a decision to shelve plans for the regional radiotherapy unit was “blatantly sectarian”.

The East Derry MP said: “The radiotherapy centre will not be a cancer centre for Catholics only, which is the import of the Sinn Fein remarks; it will be to help everyone in the North West.

“Many people in the area which stands to benefit from the centre - which will include Omagh, Strabane, Londonderry, Limavady and Coleraine, as well as County Donegal in the Irish Republic - were outraged when the comments were made.

“When the most expensive ever road building programme in Northern Ireland’s history is embarked upon in a few years time here in the same North West, no-one will claim that they will be roads for Catholics only.

“As such, these comments must be condemned and, hopefully, what significant damage they managed to do can be overcome and the main objective achieved.”

Mr. Campbell says it’s crucial that the decision announced by Health Minister Minister McGimpsey is reversed.

He added: “There is a groundswell of political opinion which, if carried through to the establishment of the new four year term of the next Assembly, will see the reality of the radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry.”

Mr. Campbell, along with local party colleagues, met with a range of political, civic and trade union representatives at the weekend to discuss how to take forward the campaign to secure the new treatment unit in Derry.

The meeting, which took place on Saturday, was hosted by the city’s Mayor Colum Eastwood.

Mr. Campbell said the “united campaign” to ensure the regional centre was located in the city suffered a blow as a result of Mr. McGuinness’ claim that the decision to mothball it was “sectarian.”

Meanwhile, Social Development Minister Alex Attwood has written to the First Minister, Deputy First Minister and Finance Minister asking for a special meeting of the Executive to discuss funding for the radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin.

He said: “As I understand it, the Executive budget allocated the capital monies required for the unit and that allocation was subsequently voted by the Assembly.

“In addition, the funding project was also part of an agreement with the Dublin government which, in my view, cannot be set aside unilaterally.

“I, therefore, question whether the Health Minister has the power to reallocate the capital money by deciding not to fund the radiotherapy unit.

“The First Minister and Deputy First Minister have said there are grounds for special Executive meetings in times of need.

“I think everyone would agree that this is one of those times of need.”