Monday 22 July 2019

Marchers say it's no!

Plans to change the name of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital draws over 1,000 people onto the streets of Drogheda. Hubert Murphy joined them

The march begins on West Street
The march begins on West Street
Protesters gather ahead of the march to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital
Venetia Taylor, Ann Wilkinson, Mayor Frank Godfrey, Martin O’Donohoe and Ronnie Owens at the protest

There is something truly symbolic about mass protest - when people feel their voices are not being heard and when they are thrown to one side.

Last Sunday afternoon, the people of Drogheda, and Louth, as well as parts of Monaghan and Cavan and Fingal decided enough was enough. They took to the streets to send out a message - hands off Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.

In recent weeks, there has been a management led bid to get the name of the hospital changed, to Drogheda University, Drogheda Regional or Drogheda General Hospital.

The reasons are pretty straightforward on the hospital's part - a ne w multi million euro extension opening, a big, bright future ahead, a new name and vision the goal.

Some feel there are other reasons - be it linked to the introduction of abortion legislation or a bid to end all religious 'symbolism' in hospitals.

But last Sunday, those that gathered on West Street and marched in unison to the hospital didn't seem too concerned with the reasons behind the proposed name change - they have one goal - keep the name.

And that's where this battle is being fought, in the hearts and tradition of Drogheda folk and those from around the entire region.

The name is synonymous with the town and its people and the link back to Mother Mary Martin and her Medical Missionaries of Mary is as strong now as it was back then.

People simply feel there is no need to spend millions changing the name.

The organisers admitted delight at the turnout, which at one stage stretched all the way back from the Lourdes Church to the top of Sunday's Gate.

And as the masses turned the corner at Beechgrove, one wondered did the retired Sisters in Aras Mhuire hear the footsteps outside as they passed by.

And at the end, the people gathered in St Peter's graveyard where three speakers expressed their feelings on the issue.

It was all so symbolic, happening just yards from the final resting place of Mother Mary herself.

Mayor Frank Godfrey pulled no punches, calling out the hospital management on the proposed changes, wondering where it will all end.

He said Our Lady of Lourdes was part of the fabric of the town and people were outraged as this bid to change the name was made without consultation with the townspeople.

'We need public pressure on the HSE and the minister,' he stated.

Bob McGuffin from the Save The Name group said he was delighted that so many turned up to make their feelings known and it was a message that had to be listened to. Later, he was part of a delegation that delivered a letter into the hospital.

He said over 8,000 names had been gathered in a petition and that would grow and grow in the coming weeks.

Anthony Moore, who launched an online petition, was equally vocal, saying the hospital had been in the headlines recently as being the birthplace of the first baby of 2019.

Like so many there, he had been born in the hospital and that affinity was too great for any HSE body to extinguish.

'The hospital belongs to the people and Our Lady of Lourdes is part of the history and heritage of our town,' he stated.

He said he couldn't understand why the hospital name was being changed and money spent on it when the HSE wouldn't fund a much needed second x-ray machine.

'It's a half baked idea and we must draw a line in the sand on it. The hospital management might think we are going to go away now, but we are going nowhere. This won't go away,' he added.

Credit was given to the likes of Imelda Munster TD and Senator Ged Nash for bringing the cause to the Dail and for the likes of Jimmy Nash and Kevin Byrne and others for their determination.

Speaking afterwards, Jimmy Nash said the organisers deserved great praise for getting the crowds out for such a cause. It is something close to his heart and well worth fighting for.

Ultimately the mood on Sunday was of defiance. It seems this journey to save the name has only just begun...

The Argus