Republic Supports Derry Cancer Unit

The outgoing Stormont First Minister, Peter Robinson, has announced his commitment to a new radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital - which has also won backing in Dublin.

His statement follows the former Stormont Health Minister Michael McGimpsey's announcement last week that the unit would not be built because funding was insufficient.

Last week, the ex Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness described the decision as "sectarian" and said he could "guarantee" to reverse it after the elections in May.

Mr McGuinnes commented: "We have a very high level agreement between our Executive and the previous Irish government which I believe will be maintained."

Mr McGimpsey's comments caused a backlash and harsh criticism from campaigners, who claimed the decision could put lives at risk at Altnagelvin, in Londonderry.

Mr Robinson has now said that the decision could be overturned on the basis of a cross-community vote, adding that under the Ministerial code "the Executive, not the Minister", has the final say.

He commented: "We are going to proceed with the Altnagelvin extension for cancer care and that's the end of the matter. The Executive is able to take this decision and the SDLP, Sinn Fein, and the DUP have now all said that they will go ahead with this project."

The Ulster Unionist Party have insisted that Mr McGimpsey's decision was taken on grounds of finance, not sectarianism.

SDLP member of the former Health Committee, Tommy Gallagher, said the delay was "heartbreaking and annoying" for cancer patients.

He accused Michael McGimpsey of playing politics stating: "He is trying to get in behind the DUP in the run-up to an election."

The Ulster Unionist Party have insisted that Mr McGimpsey's decision was taken on grounds of finance, not sectarianism.

Mr McGimpsey maintained he is committed to the future development of the Altnagelvin radiotherapy unit and commented: "However, the present budget proposal seriously undermines the ability to deliver this because of the absence of revenue funding and the reduction in capital resource available to my Department."

All Ministerial posts are now vacant after the Northern Ireland Assembly was dissolved last Friday in expectation of an election to be held on 5 May.

See: Radiotherapy Unit Plans Postponed


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