Campaigners journey to Stormont for fair services

Members of the Foyle Branch of the MS Society pictured at Stormont on Tuesday with SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey and SDLP MP Mark Durkan. From left, are, Cliona Evans, Naomi O'Loughlin, Hillary Boyd, Catherine Doran, Mark Gamble, and MS Nurse Specialist with the Western Trust, Fiona Mullan. (0305CD03)
Members of the Foyle Branch of the MS Society pictured at Stormont on Tuesday with SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey and SDLP MP Mark Durkan. From left, are, Cliona Evans, Naomi O'Loughlin, Hillary Boyd, Catherine Doran, Mark Gamble, and MS Nurse Specialist with the Western Trust, Fiona Mullan. (0305CD03)

Derry Journal reporter Catherine Doran was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2009. In the four years since she has actively campaigned and aimed to raise awareness of the condition which affects one in 500 people across Northern Ireland. She travelled to Stormont on Tuesday to mark MS Week.

“Every year, a week-long focus is given to Multiple Sclerosis, as charities and individuals aim to highlight the condition.

This year, I decided to make the journey to Stormont in Belfast, along with several other Foyle branch members of the MS Society.

I attended a MS Society reception there along with my husband Joe and our two-year-old daughter Charlotte, as they presented local politicians with the findings of their latest report, Stop the MS Lottery, as part of the UK-wide MS Awareness Week.

Despite being seven months pregnant with my second baby, I was determined to make the trip up to Belfast for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I think the report reveals a shocking disparity for MS patients accessing treatment, care and services and while we in Derry are lucky to have a fairly decent provision of neurologists and MS nurses that’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement. As an example my neurologist is in Altnagelvin Hospital for a clinic, on average, just two days in every month.

As for access to the correct medications, it is clear that we are not fairing well as opposed to some other regions across the UK and this is something that we need to change.

Secondly, I hoped to show our politicians, those voted into the Northern Ireland Assembly by us, the normal people of Derry, that they need to be looking out for all of their constituents and fighting on our behalf for the care we deserve.

Finally, I decided to take my daughter with me so that people can see that MS is a young person’s illness, affecting ‘normal’ people like me who still have hopes and dreams for their future, despite an MS diagnosis.

Before the reception I e-mailed all six of the Foyle MLAs, asking them to attend the reception, so they can see first hand how the condition is affecting their constituents.

I was extremely heartened to see that four out of our six MLAs, Mark H Durkan SDLP, Pat Ramsey SDLP, Maeve McLaughlin SF and Raymond McCartney SF were in attendance, with another, Colum Eastwood SDLP, sending apologies. The sixth, William Hay DUP, is still to get back to me!

But on the whole the response was positive.

And with Westminster not sitting this week our local MP Mark Durkan also took the time to speak to the Foyle branch members.

It was an extremely well organised event and I was buoyed by the numbers who had made the trip to be there.

As Foyle branch member Naomi O’Loughlin, from Limavady, said in her empassioned speech, for many making the trip, it wasn’t just a few hours out of their day, but an effort that could leave many of those with MS fit for little else for the rest of the week.

I personally know what she means!

You can read more of Catherine’s story at her blog alifecopingwithms.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter @catdoran