By Ellen Barr
There was a palpable sense of quiet solidarity as over 1,000 people from across the North West poured into the Guildhall Square for Friday’s Day of Action against Michael McGimpsey’s decision to shelve a vital radiotherapy centre for Altnagelvin.
At 1:05pm, when Pink Ladies Facilitator Maureen Collins took to the podium to call for a minute’s silence, the city centre went quiet and even builders working at the regeneration of the Guildhall downed tools to remember the countless numbers from the North West who have died of cancer.
But it was when local woman Maisy Crawford took the microphone that the thousand strong crowd were left stunned, many finding it difficult to hide their emotions. Waterside woman Maisy spoke to the crowd passionately on behalf of her sister Anne.
“My younger sister was one of the people who had to travel to Belfast for radiotherapy,” she said.
“Last winter, when neither bus nor car could cross the Glenshane Pass, Anne had to travel on the train to Belfast. The train broke down on the way and my daughter, who was with Anne, told me that when they eventually arrived in Belfast, the sight of Anne so cold and tired was heartbreaking.
“That scene is in my heart and mind and was imprinted in my thoughts when we buried Anne on Tuesday past.
“She was a happy little soul and we owe her our best. Our echoes must be heard in the corridors of power so that other people from our city don’t have to endure what she went through.”
As the crowd applauded her, Maisy quietly stepped back and banners were raised into the air once again.
The slogans on show at the rally included ‘Health in the Wrong Hands,’ Commitment in Concrete’ and ‘Don’t Delay, Cancer Centre Today’.
The Pink Ladies cancer support group, who organised the event, manned petitions at a number of designated locations. An impassioned Maureen Collins urged the people of Derry to shout loud and stamp their feet to ensure that the outgoing health minister’s controversial decision would be reversed.
Ms. Collins also praised the people of Derry for their support.
She said: “We could not have even anticipated the support we would get following the denouncing of our cancer centre. The response to our campaign has been outstanding.
“This is about all the people from the North West region who have to go through horrible journeys to Belfast, Galway and Dublin. It’s for the people who have had to cope with a frightening disease and then start thinking about the practicalities involved in saving their lives so that they can have a future.
“Some of the people here today went through cancer treatment 20 years ago and went through the gruelling journey for treatment. They didn’t think their grandchildren would have to go through the same.”
The turnout included local schoolchildren, with a big contingent from Thornhill, politicians and community representatives.
Asking for the minute’s silence, Ms. Collins said:“Think of someone making that journey today and think of those who have passed away after having had made that journey many times.”
In closing, she added; “We will continue to campaign until the first brick is laid for our radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin.”