A march and rally took take place on Saturday July 9th at 2pm to oppose the planned closure of the 24 A&E service at St Colmcilles Hospital in Loughlinstown. Richard Boyd Barrett TD, People Before Profit Alliance, one of the organisers of the protest, has called for a major campaign of people power to resist the down-grading of A&E and other services at Loughlinstown Hospital. He said today’s protest at several large public meetings that have been held in the area, opposing the down-grading of services at the hospital, must only be the beginning of a sustained campaign to defend the 24 A&E service and he called for the campaign to link up with other communities across the country fighting to defend their A&E services. He also urged protesters to join the national demonstration on Saturday July 16th in Dublin against the EU-IMF austerity programme, which he says lies behind the moves to close down A&E services at smaller local hospitals around the country. Deputy Boyd Barrett has also challenged local TD’s in Dun Laoghaire and Wicklow to defend the 24 A&E service at St Colmcille’s, on the grounds that many of them, including Tainiste, Eamon Gilmore campaigned before the recent election and for years before that on the basis of opposing any plans to down grade services at the Hospital. Deputy Boyd Barrett said: “Local TD’s in the Dun Laoghaire and Wicklow area and in particular, Tainiste Eamon Gilmore, have always put themselves forward at election time as champions of hospital services at Loughlinstown and opponents of any moves to down-grade services at the hospital. It would be an absolutely disgraceful betrayal of the people who elected them if they now went along with plans to close and down-grade these vital local health services. They will not be forgiven by the people of the area if they do this. The announcement to curtail the A&E at Loughlinstown has been met with anger and shock by residents in Dun Laoghaire and Wicklow. Hundreds of people have been giving out leaflets and we expect the protest today to be big and the beginning of a major campaign to keep the services at St Colmcille’s.As with Roscommon and other hospitals, the government is attempting to muddy the waters – justifying cuts to vital 24 hour A&E services and a downgrading of Loughlinstown Hospital on bogus health and safety grounds. In reality, this is simply more of the austerity being dictated by the EU-IMF in order to pay-off the bank and bondholders who wrecked our economy. The bottom line here is cuts resulting from a €1 billion reduction in the health budget and the rapidly accelerating impact of the public sector recruitment embargo. This attack on our health services must be resisted with a determined campaign of people power.”