Rally supports under-threat care homes

East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs talks to local people at Stormont regarding the under-threat Lisgarel residential care home in Larne. INLT 27-682-CON
East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs talks to local people at Stormont regarding the under-threat Lisgarel residential care home in Larne. INLT 27-682-CON

A contingent of around 50 residents from across East Antrim have attended a Stormont rally organised by public service union Unison.

The event, which took place on Monday, aimed to outline concerns to MLAs over closure plans for the area’s Lisgarel, Joymount and Clonmore residential care homes.

East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs hosted a protest event in the Senate Chamber, which was well attended by local people expressing their support for the local care homes.

Speaking following the event, the Ulster Unionist representative said:“Today the residents were given the chance to make their voice heard at Stormont, for the first time since this debacle began.

“Many expressed their anger and frustration at the situation they have found themselves in, and told us how they now feel they have been left in limbo over their futures.’

“It was noted by many of the residents at today’s event that the Health Minister was not in attendance. I find it deeply disappointing that Edwin Poots did not come and hear what they had to say.”

Mr Beggs added that it was “deeply heartening” that ‘Friends’ groups have been established to support many of the residential care homes.

“These groups provide much needed to support to those who have been affected by the current situation,” he added. “Their help and support for some of the most vulnerable in our community is vital and I would encourage more members of the public to join in with the work of their local Friends group.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Unison confirmed the rally attracted over 150 residents from across the province, with 21 MLAs also in attendance.

“The rally is a culmination of work that Unison undertook with residents and staff of the homes targeted for closure, relatives of residents, and local communities,” said Unison regional organiser, Joe McCusker.

“We are seeking a pledge from MLAs to stand with us in our opposition to residential care home closures and to send a clear message to the Heath Minister that he needs to reverse his policy of closing the homes.”

As previously reported, the Northern Trust had announced its intention to close all nine of its state-run residential homes, as part of sweeping reforms of elderly care provision But the proposals caused a huge public outcry, leading Mr Poots to instruct the Trust to drop the contentious plans.