UNISON chief Dave Prentis flew into Belfast this Wednesday to lend his support to the fight against the proposed closure of 10 residential care homes, including Cookstown’s Westlands Home.
Paying tribute to residents, relatives and the union members involved in the campaign to save the homes, he said: “We will shame any government that attempts to trample over the rights of the most frail and vulnerable in our society.”
Mr Prentice’s endorsement comes as the campaign enters its third year with the majority of threatened homes still open - but this could soon change as 10 homes remain under major threat.
Closed to new residents - despite growing need for residential care - the infrastructure at certain homes is being deliberately neglected he said.
Over the past week public marches and demonstrations have taken place in Cookstown, Ballymoney, Ballymena and UNISON has challenged politicians attending these protests to set aside their constant bickering and work together to protect the rights of residents.
Determined Westlands resident, 89-year-old Clifford Devlin, met with Dave Prentis on his visit to Northern Ireland.
Mr Clifford has attended and challenged the health care board at public meetings, campaigned at Stormont and given TV interviews on his joy at the reprieve for many homes.
But Westlands is still under threat and he is calling for public support when families bring their fight to Stormont on September 28.
Dave Prentis said: “The fight for fundamental human rights is at the core of everything we stand for. I am immensely proud of the fight which members and residents like Clifford have put up in Northern Ireland.
“I sincerely hope that government in Northern Ireland will demonstrate a morale courage that is sadly lacking in the Tories - I am confident that fairness and decency will win in the end.”
The full list of care homes earmarked for closure are:
· Westlands, Cookstown
· Roxborough House in The Moy
· Chestnut Grove and Pine Lodge in Belfast
· William Street and Rectory Field in Derry
· Northfield House in Donaghadee
· Slieve Roe in Kilkeel
· The Roddens in Ballymoney
· Pinewood in Ballymena