Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice called for those present at Monday’s emergency public meeting to discuss the future of the Rosalie Unit in Castlerea to “have Minister Denis Naughten’s back”. This followed the Minister’s announcement that he was expecting a letter from An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Tuesday which would safeguard the future of the unit.
Minister Naughten had said he “made it crystal clear to the Taoiseach that the situation was unacceptable”. He said the Taoiseach had assured him that he was willing to stand by a letter he had sent as Health Minister in 2015 that assured the long-term future of the Rosalie Unit.
Deputy Fitzmaurice welcomed the announcement from Minister Naughten but said he had “no faith” in the HSE.
“We need to have Denis Naughten’s back and go with him. We draft a letter that every politician, be you Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Independent or whatever. That we say we will not adhere – be it our party or our Government – to what’s being done. We put the Taoiseach on notice, we welcome what’s being given to Denis, but I do think we have to have his back and put the pressure on behind so that he gets that letter that’s been promised to him”.
Earlier, Deputy Eugene Murphy said “the time for talking was over” and claimed the decision to close the Rosalie Unit “had been made a long time ago”.
“I welcome the statement from Denis. I want to make it crystal clear that since I entered Dáil Éireann that I have put on the jersey. I have raised this issue on 14 occasions,” he said, before describing Tony Canavan and Minister Jim Daly as “messenger boys” and calling for the unit, which currently has 12 residents, to be reinstated to 33 beds.
Senator Maura Hopkins said she had been involved in “numerous meetings” with HSE officials and Minister Jim Daly and that she was as frustrated as anyone with the current situation.
“Anything we hear we are questioning, it is not a good place to be,” she said before adding “nobody has any faith in the process”.
Sinn Féin spokeswoman Claire Kerrane said that while much of the focus was on what Deputy Murphy and Minister Naughten were doing for the future of the Rosalie Unit, “the party in charge is Fine Gael”.
“On Monday it’s closing, on Thursday it’s not closing. Which is it? Closing or not closing? Fine Gael need to stand up for this county: Maura (Senator Hopkins), when you go back to Dublin tell them to give Roscommon a break because we’ve had enough!”
Cllr. Paschal Fitzmaurice had earlier called on Denis Naughten and Eugene Murphy to “stand for the people of Roscommon” and to “pull the plug” on the current government if they had to.
“I’d be delighted if you pulled the plug. It’s time to stand up to the HSE because they don’t give a damn about us”.
Cllr. Tony Ward, meanwhile, described the HSE as “not fit for purpose” while Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council, Ivan Connaughton called for it to be disbanded.
Cllr. Liam Callaghan accused the HSE of “riding roughshod” over the county. He also highlighted the recent stands taken by both Roscommon manager Kevin McStay and Kildare manager, Cian O’Neill.
“Let the cry tonight be: Rosalie or nowhere!” he said.
Earlier, Cllr. Rachel Doherty had taken aim at local representatives and government ministers including An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
“We’re going nowhere talking to Tony Canavan and Minister Jim Daly, he knows nothing about vulnerable people and shouldn’t be in that position.
“This is a test case for the HSE. If they do get this closed they’ll move on to the next place.
“I’m fed up hearing about mental health services, I know how good and bad they can be. The real issue here is that we have three Deputies and three Senators – they should be put on a bus up to Dublin!”
She then called on Minister Naughten to once again “do the brave thing” before adding that both Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister Jim Daly “should be gone” and that An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar “is there for nothing other than the photoshoots”.
She added that she regrets Fianna Fáil “didn’t walk out” following the Cervical Check scandal.
Dr. Greg Kelly, who chaired Monday’s meeting, said that it appeared the HSE was “hell-bent” on closing the Rosalie Unit.
“It’s good to see local people fighting for a good cause. There have been a number of meetings and trips to the Dáil on a number of occasions to meet the Minister. But there has been no progress,” he said.
He later went on to question those involved in the decision to close the unit, including HSE Executive Clinical Director, Amanda Bourke: “The lady pushing for this closure is a child psychiatrist with no experience in what we are dealing with. This is a fight we can’t lose – whatever we have to do we will do it!”
Liam Walsh, whose mother Breda is a resident in the unit, said he had invited both Minister Jim Daly and HSE Chief Officer Tony Canavan to Monday’s meeting but both had declined and had also informed him they wouldn’t be sending representatives.
Mr. Walsh said: “That the lead guy won’t come and address the people with genuine concerns is hugely damning”.
A number of contributors to Monday’s meeting raised the recent conflicting comments made by Minister Jim Daly and Tony Canavan.
Speaking on local radio on Monday, July 2nd Mr. Canavan had intimated that the decision had already been made to close the Rosalie Unit in the long-term. However, speaking at the Dáil just days later, Minister Daly denied that any such decision had been made.
Anita Flanagan, whose brother Dan Moran is currently a resident in the Rosalie Unit, claimed that Dan was never consulted about his treatment despite being completely aware of what was going on at the unit.
“Residents won’t get the same treatment in private nursing homes because they won’t have the staff. For Tony Canavan to say they’ll (the residents) have better treatment elsewhere is an insult.
“The clinical assessments are the biggest hoax of all – there have been no talks and no communications with them at all,” she said.
Closing the meeting, Liam Walsh called on those present to provide campaigners with contact details so that pickets and protests could be arranged as the battle to save the Rosalie Unit entered a critical phase.