‘Save Thackeray’ campaign wins the backing of Council

Limavady Borough councillors have unanimously given their support for the 'Save Thackeray' campaign. (0805SJ1) Photo: Sheena Jackson

Limavady Borough councillors have unanimously given their support for the 'Save Thackeray' campaign. (0805SJ1) Photo: Sheena Jackson

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A robust campaign to save Thackeray Place residential care home in Limavady has the unanimous support of local councillors.

Workers of Thackeray, and family members whose loved ones call the home their home, attended a special meeting of Council on Tuesday to discuss the threat to its future.

Armed with their now familiar leaflets ‘Say No to Closure - Support Thackeray Place’, more than a dozen Thackeray campaigners clapped and cheered as councillors spoke about the way the situation was dealt with by the Western Trust, and what needed to be done to retain the care home.

Almost all 15 councillors voiced their support for Thackeray, and subsequently agreed to write to Health Minister Edwin Poots, inviting him to visit Limavady to meet councillors and Thackeray residents.

Council also agreed to write to Fionnuala McAndrew, the woman tasked with taking over the consultation process on plans for Northern Ireland’s NHS care homes. Last week, after a public outcry, Minister Poots stripped the local Health Trusts of any role in the consultation process.

Limavady Mayor, Cathal McLaughlin said he was “appalled” at the way the matter was handled prior to the minister’s intervention, while Sinn Fein’s Anne Brolly said clarity was needed about allowing any new intake of residents at Thackeray, and at other homes. If not, she claimed, it would see homes eventually “just closing down and we need clarity on that,” she said.

UU Colr. Edwin Stevenson claimed the minister in doing his “u-turn” was a “cop out” and was “playing to the gallery” and the homes would close eventually.

TUV Colr. Boyd Douglas said he’d “never seen such a mess”, and claimed the way it had been dealt with was an “utter disgrace”, especially seeing how so many of the elderly residents in care homes had been left traumatised.

“It was all wrong, from start to finish,” he said, commending those involved in the ‘Save Thackeray’ campaign.

“Thackeray will stay open because we will keep it open,” added Colr. Douglas, prompting cheers and claps from the gallery.

SDLP Colr. Gerry Mullan said there remained a great deal of ambiguity over Thackeray’s future. He said he believed the next step was “closure by stealth, natural wastage”, stating: “The policy is unacceptable.”

Colr. Mullan added: “The campaign has to continue. The minister has not learned his lesson yet.”

SDLP Colr. Michael Coyle agreed a number of issues remained outstanding, and said council must ask if Thackeray has a waiting list and, if so, how long has it been in place. If no more intakes are allowed, he asked what would happen to those on the waiting list.

“Also, what is a viable number for a residential care home?” he asked. “There are a lot of questions to be asked, which is why we need to give our support to the residents of Thackeray and their families... The war has still to be fought.”

Colr. Orla Beattie said the entire issue had been handled terribly from the start.

“To think that any right minded person thought it was okay to tell people in their eighties and nineties their home could be closed in a year and then leave them!” she said.

Sinn Fein’s Brenda Chivers said like many former mayors, she had toured Thackeray and witnessed the standard of care there, and how the home was a community. Colr. Chivers proposed the minister and representatives from the Western Trust should come to Limavady and meet with residents of Thackeray “and see our support for Thackeray”.

Sinn Fein’s Sean McGlinchey said: “We must stay focused and move forward in our support for Thackeray,” he said, adding credit should go to Minister Poots for acting swiftly and taking control of the situation of and out of the hands of the Trusts.

UU Colr. Jack Rankin said staff campaigning to keep Thackeray open must not be forgotten as “they are worried too about their jobs”.

“I’m still not satisfied with what I’ve heard. Our health (system) is in a state of turmoil. Thackeray is one of the finest and I am 100 per cent behind it and the staff,” said Colr. Rankin.

DUP Colr. Alan Robinson said his party in Limavady remained committed to doing what they could to keep Thackeray open. He referred to their vocal condemnation of what happened in the Western Trust last week. Colr. Robinson spoke of how his granny, DUP Colr. George Robinson’s mother, had been cared for fantastically in Thackeray Place and the facility held huge sentimental value for them.

Colr. Robinson said it wasn’t about statistics and numbers, but about people, and agreed the health minister should visit Limavady.

Speaking about the night when residents were told the news by Trust officials in Thackeray last week, he said: “There was complete devastation. It was like there was a death that night.”

Colr. George Robinson said the past week had been difficult “when I saw what was happening in that wee care home I care so dearly for”.

Praising staff involved in the campaign to Save Thackeray, he said they were excellent ambassadors. He appealed to everyone to contribute to the consultation, adding: “The fight goes on.”

Petitions campaigning to ‘Save Thackeray’ are available throughout Limavady, including in the foyer of Limavady Borough Council offices on Connell Street.