Pat on the back for Enda and co

The bright sunshine which lightened the hearts of everyone this week was matched with some exciting news for the Sacred Heart Hospital in Castlebar. The €11 million funding which was allocated to bring the facility up to HIQA standards, hopefully in time for the 2015 deadline, was greeted with genuine relief and happiness across the county.

This is not just a Castlebar good news story, but one which affects families the length and breadth of Mayo who have had positive experiences with the excellent staff at this facility.

There are very few Mayo families who haven’t been linked to the Sacred Heart and so when a community protest was organised last month it’s little wonder that a couple of hundred people attended to voice fears against the possible closure of a great establishment. On an evening when the clouds were heavy with unshed rain, which eventually opened to disperse the sizeable gathering, it was interesting to hear the stories of those in attendance, some from as far away as County Meath.

Interestingly then it was against a backdrop of sunshine and soaring temperatures that the Taoiseach announced the news of the €11 million investment, €600,000 more than was applied for, ensuring a little cushion to get the necessary works completed.

The Mayor of Castlebar will be quietly counting his blessings too, having stated publicly only last week that he would eat his hat should the facility close within the next five years. A cynic might suggest that Mayor Henaghan had heard rumblings of a big announcement for the Sacred Heart before making such a bold statement, but regardless his digestive system has been spared.

Unfortunately the whole issue was used as a political football but this shouldn’t detract from the positive outcome. Fianna Fáil organised the community protests and were accused by Fine Gael of scaremongering when the application for funding was still live. Members of Fianna Fáil would say it was the pressure created by the protest that spurred on the funding announcement and they were critical of the Fine Gael members who remained silent on the issue until this week.

Thankfully this is not relevant anymore, only for those intrinsically caught up in the local political landscape, and it is with relief that news that the future of the hospital has been saved was received by the general public.

Staying in a happy vein it is interesting to note that Centra are behind a really novel campaign which calls on communities across Mayo to get together with their neighbours on Sunday June 23. The initiative has been titled Street Feast and it encourages people to come together with their neighbours and friends to connect over great food and chat in a fun and easy way.

Obviously Centra have a commercial interest in the event being successful, but they have to be applauded for encouraging neighbours to come together to re-ignite the community spirit across Mayo. It’s not that anyone is suggesting that community spirit is lacking in Mayo, but often times we are so busy running and racing that we don’t have time to exchange pleasantries with those who are living closest to us. This is especially evident where people have moved into an area and find it difficult connecting with their new neighbours. Unless you are meeting parents at the school gate or are invited to the Station Mass it can be difficult to build relationships.

So put June 23 in the diary for a good old community shindig.

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