OPINION: It Occurs To Me - Donegal Cancer Group asking questions

"We are not going away!” The defiant words of Betty Holmes of Donegal Action Cancer Care

OPINION: It Occurs To Me  - Donegal Cancer Group asking questions

This map highlights a geographical divide when it comes to where the Centres of Excellence are - or are not!

We are not going away!” The defiant words of Betty Holmes of Donegal Action Cancer Care recently in a strongly worded letter to Minister for Health, Simon Harris.
Betty added: “We had also over recent months been proactive raising the matter of a Prostate Satellite Rapid Access Clinic for Letterkenny University Hospital.
DACC first raised this back in 2008 & 2009 regarding this service and we had worked hard in trying to ensure Letterkenny Hospital would be one of the RCU. With the new Radiotherapy Service starting in Altnagelvin Hospital we saw this as relevant time to bring this back on the agenda, an important service that would benefit Donegal men.”
Last Monday, the aforementioned crucial service opened it Altnagelvin at a cost of 66 million euro.
The unique cross border project will be a hospital within a hospital providing treatments to
people with cancer both North and South of the Border. The Service will be managed by the Western Health and Social Care Trust working closely with colleagues from the Cancer Centre, Belfast, the Northern Health & Social Care Trust and Letterkenny General Hospital.
It will be funded by the Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland and the Department of Health here in the Republic.
The Radiotherapy Unit will provide access to Radiotherapy Services to over a half million people. In the region of 417,000 people living in the Derry, Strabane, Limavady, Omagh, Fermanagh, Coleraine, Moyle and Ballymoney local council areas and 110,000 people from North to Mid Donegal will have access to radiotherapy treatments at the new Unit from now.
Lobbying can work as evidenced by the results achieved by the Pink Ladies Cancer Support group in Derry who host monthly meetings and lobby government bodies and politicians around issues that affect cancer patients.
The male equivalent is called the Pink Panthers.
I know Betty and admire her greatly. Yes, she does ruffle feathers, but most chickens I’ve ever come across are chicken!
As evidenced by the DACC map on this page, the situation visa vis our ‘Forgotten County’ is absolutely scandalous.
There was always a better chance of respite from our Derry cousins rather than our so-called neighbours further to the south.
To paraphrase Rabbie Burns, Betty…”Lang may yer lum reek!”


The 1782 census showed that there were 365 Catholics living in Belfast. At that time, there was no Catholic Church in the City.
The Presbyterian and Church of Ireland communities took up a special collection at their services – the Handsome Collection – and made a gift of the monies donated to build the first Catholic Church in Belfast – St Mary’s Chapel Lane. The generosity of the Presbyterian and Church of Ireland people of Belfast demonstrates the unprecedented religious tolerance of that time.
It was on Sunday, 30th May 1784 that Mass was celebrated for the first time in the new church of St. Mary’s by Donegal native, Father Hugh O’Donnell, first Parish Priest of Belfast.
Recently, I had the great pleasure of meeting Father Jim O’Donoghue from St Mary’s who is on the verge of retiring from the Mill Hill Fathers and who, with his colleagues do wonderful pastoral work for the homeless and others less fortunate in that area of Belfast.
Jim’s colleague is Father James A Boyle from Ardaghey who joined the parish of St Mary's in August 2007.
Fr James was ordained in 1968 and was a teacher for the first 11 years of his priestly life in a Mill Hill college in Co Kilkenny.
After that he spent one year in Ann Arbor Michigan, USA, with the Word of God basic Christian Ecumenical community.
From there he went to Cameroon, West Africa. After 7 years in Cameroon Fr James got Falciparum (malignant) Malaria in his liver and was lucky to survive – it took a year to recover. Medically he was advised not to work in the tropics again.
After recovery from malaria Fr James did a variety of things – retreat work, prison Chaplaincy, training in counselling, and working as a counsellor. For the last 15 years previous to joining St Mary's, Fr James was parish Priest of St Margaret Mary parish in Park Gate in Southampton. Both Father Jim’s are much loved in their parish.
Back in the 1960’s Father O’Donoghue was visiting the Mill Hill Fathers in St Louis, Missouri, when a Nigerian colleague was refused admission to a restaurant.
In solidarity, Father Jim refused to eat there!
Unfortunately, that type of despicable racism is bubbling under again in the US.

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