Protesters let Minister Harney know that she is not welcome

AROUND 100 protestors lined both entrances to the Louth County Hospital on Monday to protest at Mary Harney's visit.

AROUND 100 protestors lined both entrances to the Louth County Hospital on Monday to protest at Mary Harney's visit.

While the Minister for Health was already inside when the bulk of the group arrived, they made their feelings known about the number of cutback in services at the hospital under her watch as both she and locally-based Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern left the grounds following the official opening of the new North Eastern Regional Colposcopy unit.

The gathering at the front gate chanted the word "shame" as each of the ministers left the hospital and also made their feelings known with a series of posters – a selection of which read "A&E, ICU – Give Them Back", "Harney Must Go", "Resign in Shame", "Harney Not Welcome" and "Shame on You".

A large number of passing motorists also beeped their car horns in support as they passed the protestors. The gathering – coming just weeks after Minister Harney was covered in red paint at another opening – attracted a huge Garda presence, with a riot and canine unit also on hand.

Thankfully, the protest was nothing but peaceful but the feeling of those gathered on the cold morning was quite clear with Philip Mackin from Mullaharlin Park branding Minister Harney's visit a "disgrace".

He said: "When the hospital opened 50 years ago we needed it then and the population has doubled in this area since then so that means we need it more.

"It's just been cut after cut after cut though."

Mr Mackin said that the Health Minister was not welcome at the hospital, something that was echoed by Trevor Greene.

"I had my appendix out in the hospital and it was a great service with great staff. Now though you have to go to Drogheda and it's just too big. It really can't cope."

Peter Short of the Workers' Party was another who led the protests.

He said: "I don't think she is very welcome. She has butchered the hospital to pieces.

"Dundalk is one of the biggest towns in the country and the fact it has no hospital is scanalous and ridiculous.

"The town is halfway between Dublin and Belfast so I can't understand the logic of what they're doing or trying to do. This government is on its last legs though and I just hope they won't do much more damage before they're finally put out of office," he said.

Meanwhile, well-known local personality Harry Lee also hit out at Minister Harney's visit, saying "I think there's no need for it."

He said: "I think it's a case of her showing she can do what she likes. She should've stayed away.

"All she is doing is irritating the decent people in the town and many of us are here to show her that we're not happy with what she has done with our hospital."