Paul Maskey, Ciaran Beattie Please Do Not Con The Vulnerable

Gerry O'Halloran last night was in angry mood at the Stormont attack on society's most vulnerable. Gerry O'Halloran is  part of a group of carers campaigning against closures of mental health and learning disability day centres in Belfast.

Back in September of last year the Belfast Trust opened up a consultation with the public to discuss the closure of mental health and learning disability centres in the city of Belfast.

Two consultations have now closed: one consultation was for the closure of mental health day centres at Whiterock and Everton in North Belfast and the Fallswater DayCcentre for Learning Disabled in Iveagh in West Belfast.
We have been involved in trying to stop the closure of the Fallswater Day Dentre in West Belfast because of its unique place in learning disability for those people who are a little older and want a quiet peaceful environment for their day time activities. This is a very small centre, housing only 28 people, eight of whom are over retirement age. It's a unique building, and was gifted to the Trust in order for the Trust to use it for this very purpose. It has been heavily invested in to make it fit for purpose for the clients who go there and it is in pristine condition. The Trust own this building, since it was given to them, and we have been reliably informed through the efforts of Tim Attwood contacting the Trust that closing it would save £180,000 p.a.

Many meetings have taken place to try and form a strategy to pressure the Trust into keeping Fallswater open. Tim Attwood and Gerry Carroll have been excellent, along with the unions in coming together to form an opposition to these cuts. And so far we feel there has been some success, as the decision on the proposed closures was to take place today but has now been delayed.

It is thought the pressure of opposition to the closures has been successful with over 1,000 responses of opposition to the closure of Fallswater alone. Today there was a protest at the trust headquarters to hand in to the trust what I believe to be in the region of 2,500 signatures to oppose the closures.

However a dispute has opened up regarding the involvement of Sinn Fein in the Fallswater matter. During the last few months of last year Sinn Fein called together some of the families of learning disabled in order to discuss a proposal about Fallswater. The proposal was, according to Ciaran Beattie a good deal: it would mean that the Trust would find it more difficult to close Fallswater Day Centre for the learning disabled if a proposal was put to the board that would involve some money coming their way to help with costs and that the building could be used by other groups in the community.
On face value this was a good deal. We were told that there would be a second meeting so that we could see the proposal that was to be put to the trust and discuss it. We went to the second meeting and we did not get a copy of the proposal that Sinn Fein were to give to the Trust. Instead we got one page that told us how opening up the building to other groups would be a good thing.

All along we, as families of the learning disabled people affected, have had problems with this opening up of the building. But at the second meeting not only did Ciaran Beattie say about other groups using the building but that the purpose of the building would be changed from a learning disabled facility to a 'centre of excellence' for the community.
Again on the face of it this looks like a good thing but we told Sinn Fein that there are records in there belonging to people that are extremely confidential, and that we couldn't have sports groups for example running in and out and disturbing the oasis of peace this centre has become for those with a learning disability, most of whom are older citizens. It's simply not an option to allow sporting groups in there.
Ciaran Beattie tells us that a group of autistic kids would be our main partner for sharing, but not who the actual groups is. We've no name, and when told that this sort of thing wouldn't exactly be a problem, a small group going in and sitting down and then leaving again might be acceptable but definitely not sports groups or an 'opening it up to the community'!! Did Sinn Fein listen to us ... you can see for yourself what they did...

Opening up our centre for community use is not acceptable. Learning disabled have very little facilities as it is, and as one carer has told Paul Maskey - in what we are told was a very heated phone call - able bodied people have other places all over that road including numerous leisure facilities, the learning disabled have almost nothing.: you cannot take anything from them to give to others no matter how deserving.
These people are society's most vulnerable. Taking from them to make a political party look good is wrong. Paul Maskey has been totally absent from these efforts to keep Fallswater open. In fact we asked Paul to attend the first meeting about the consultations in Suffolk Day Centre and he refused saying he had to be in London. And upon 'threatening' him we did get him to agree to send someone along. ..

It has got to the point now that many seasoned carers, who have fought the good fight to get facilities for their adult children will not even consider a meeting with Paul Maskey who did offer to meet. This is because they are so angry and feel they have been conned.
At the protest today at the city hospital, Fra McCann was there but he was on his own ... due to the fact that 'they' didn't know ... When informed of the fall out between carers and Paul Maskey again Fra offered a meeting but the anger on the part of carers is high. They feel conned and  there is hurt on seasoned faces of elderly carers many of whom are ill themselves at this betrayal by Sinn Fein.

The decision on the closures is rumoured to take place in March. That's going to make this an election issue Mr Maskey ...

Share This:

Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

4 comments to ''Paul Maskey, Ciaran Beattie Please Do Not Con The Vulnerable"

  1. By my calculation it costs £6,428 per disabled person per year to keep the center open. For specialized needs that seems to me to be both value for money and a good cause?

    At face value if the center were to be closed the idea is that those availing of the centers services would no longer be a drain on the £180,000 public funds. Without any positive effects the center has on its users then they would be vulnerable to the sort of anxieties, mood swings and self harm episodes that such centers are there to alleviate. Therefore any savings made by closing the center will manifest themselves in other area of public services such that closing the center might only have the effect of moving or dispersing the costs to those other services?

  2. All of this is still a product of asinine tory politics; Austerity caused by the richest entails the poorest suffering most while they still live in opulence.

    Taking away any facility used by the most vulnerable and needy in our society should be met with widespread outrage and social upheaval to address the inequality.

    The RM used inequality as a mantra, and now SF are a party to the suffering of the people?

    The unionist/loyalist need a good boot up the hole agreeing to these despicable measures as well.

    Disgusting all round.

  3. Steve,
    The Unionist/loyalist dd not just agree they pushed these cuts from the very beginning. SF proved themselves the weasels that they are when they did a LibDem and reneged on their much publicized stance to stand against the Tory cuts by washing their hands off the matter and giving it back to Osborne to implement....I hope the people of West Belfast remember this, as the past supporters of the LibDems did in the British general election, when the local elections come around.

  4. How else are they meant to pay for their golden handshakes unless they make cuts?

    £10m in golden handshakes for Northern Ireland's council officials


  • To add an Emoticons Show Icons
  • To add code Use [pre]code here[/pre]
  • To add an Image Use [img]IMAGE-URL-HERE[/img]
  • To add Youtube video just paste a video link like