The Western Trust has hit back after an Ulster Unionist Party MLA expressed outrage at the use of the iconic Free Derry Corner to promote Organ Donation Week.
The Trust defended the use of Free Derry Corner following comments by UUP MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Rosemary Barton when she took exception to a picture from the Trust showing the historic monument painted pink to raise awareness of the vital need for more organ donors.
The Western Trust had posted the picture of Free Derry Corner - one of a number of key sites and buildings in Derry turning pink for this week - on its social media pages with the message:
“We’re painting the town pink for Organ Donation Week! If you’re passing the Free Derry Wall why not stop and take a snap. Share your photos to help us raise awareness to encourage people to discuss organ donation with their families.”
Rosemary Barton, who is also UUP Education Spokesperson, however took to Twitter and stated: “Abhorrent of the @WesternHSCTrust to use an overt Irish Republican symbol and location (often used by violent republican groups) to promote Organ Donation Week. It seems they are promoting the Irish Republican viewpoint rather than the Organ Donation. Poor decision!”
Closer to Derry, a former UUP election candidate, Julia Kee, wrote under the Trust’s post on Facebook: “This is disgraceful the way Western Health Trust has dealt with this matter. If the Western health trust had painted a loyalist mural pink there would have been a riot in this town.”
The Western Trust said they wished to address their post promoting Organ Donation Week at Free Derry Corner.
A spokesperson said: “‘Free Derry Corner’ has become a recognisable monument in the city of Derry/Londonderry and is often painted different colours to raise awareness for various campaigns; campaigns which have no association to any particular political group.
“The reappropriation of this iconic image in the city has the ability to send a powerful message. Hundreds of people from all walks of life pass this wall daily, but our message is the same for everyone. #WordsSaveLives.
“Consider becoming an organ donor and tell your loved ones of your wishes.
“There is never discrimination or divide in the act of being an organ donor.”
In a statement, Dr Declan Grace, Western Trust Lead Clinician for Organ Donation, said: “Free Derry Corner is a very recognisable landmark in Derry/ Londonderry. As anticipated, promoting Organ Donation at this location has generated excellent publicity for this vital cause.
“On average 16 patients die annually in N. Ireland while waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.
“Thus, it is vital that everyone considers becoming a donor, registers as a potential donor and informs their next of kin of their decision to do so.
“Together we can and we shall save many lives.”