Cancer centre to get green light

First Minister Peter Robinson has vowed to overturn the decision to shelve plans for Derry’s cancer centre.

Mr Robinson made the committment after Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness gave a “guaruntee” that Health Minister Michael McGimpsey’s decision to sideline the proposals for the cross border radiotherapy centre at Altnagelvin would be reversed.

Mr Robinson made his pledge on the future of the proposals after he and Mr McGuinness met in Derry with cancer support group, the Pink Ladies, adding that the decision could be overturned on the basis of a cross-community vote. He said that under the North’s ministerial code the Executive, and not the Minister, would have the final say.

“We are going to proceed with the Altnagelvin extension for cancer care and that’s the end of the matter,” he said.

“The Executive is able to take this decision and the SDLP, Sinn Fein, and the DUP have now all said that they will go ahead with this project.”

Pink Ladies spokeswoman Karen Mullan said the North West cannot afford to allow the plans to be delayed any further. “We’re delighted to have got a firm commitment from both ministers that they’ll do their utmost to ensure the city gets the cancer treatment centre it deserves.

“We are determined to keep our campaign going. Our Day of Action on April 15 will go ahead and, if we have to march to Stormont, we will. It is crucial that this plan gets back on track as soon as possible.”

Following the “disappointment” of last week’s announcement, Ms Mullan said there was “renewed hope” due to the cross party support for the project.

“Cross party support is very positive. This is not just an issue for the Pink Ladies or any one group of people - cancer affects everyone. Party politics doesn’t come into it,” she added.

Mr McGuinness welcomed Mr Robinson’s comments, adding that Mr McGimpsey had shown himself to be both “incompetent and isolated”.

“It is important that we get all party support and today’s statement by Peter Robinson shows that the decision by Michael McGimpsey does not have the support of other Executive Ministers. I would urge the Leaders of the other parties in the Assembly to also state their intention to have this decision overturned. Mr McGimpsey needs to realise that this decision not only was the wrong one but has portrayed him as incompetent and isolated on this issue. I repeat the commitment that I made last week and echoed today by First Minister Peter Robinson that we will overturn this decision at the first opportunity and guarantee the radiotherapy unit for Altnagelvin.”