Children’s heart motion receives complete support

A LOCAL councillor hailed it as an historic occasion when a Sinn Fein Notice of Motion was given unanimous backing without any amendments at Craigavon Council.

It came after councillors backed a proposal to lobby Minister Edwin Poots to give parents a reassurance on the future service model for Paediatric Congenital Cardiac Services.

Mairead O’Dowd made the proposal and there were several interested parties in the public gallery to hear what councillors had to say on the matter.

Her proposal came about after she’d worked closely with a lobby group who formed after a review decided the children’s cardiac unit in Belfast was unsustainable.

Mrs O’Dowd, in setting out the Notice of Motion, said: “We are proposing that Craigavon Borough Council calls on the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to reassure parents that the future service model for Paediatric Congenital Cardiac Services will prioritise the needs of their children, and further calls on the Minister to explore fully an all-island solution with his counterpart Dr James Reilly.”

She added: “The review has sent shockwaves to say the least across the North. Many children are residents here in Craigavon who have received life saving surgery in Belfast.”

Mrs O’Dowd said the review was rushed and that parents weren’t afforded nearly as much time as their counterparts in England and Wales for consultation. She said children shouldn’t be placed at extra risk because of a “short-sighted” decision.

Sinn Fein colleague Councillor Johnny McGibbon urged councillors to consider this issue without assuming a party political position.

Councillor Alan Carson, speaking on behalf of the DUP, said his party would be supporting the motion. He gave credit to the lobby group who have publicised the issue and fought to have their voices heard.

He added: “Effectively what Sinn Fein have brought before council has already been put in motion. Minister Poots has made assurances that the model will prioritise the health and safety of children.”

Mr Carson said the fact remained there were not enough cases to provide a safe and sustainable 24-hour service in Belfast.

Councillor Joe Nelson supported the motion on behalf of the SDLP while Councillor Ronnie Harkness gave the motion UUP backing.

Sinn Fein councillors welcomed the support but queried Mr Carson’s point that if Mr Poots had made parents feel reassured there would have been no need for a lobby group.

Mrs O’Dowd said: “History has taken place tonight. This has to be the first time a motion at Craigavon Council has received all party backing with no amendments. It’s the least we can do to help these families.”

It was agreed council would make a formal response to Minister Poots.