COMMENT: Major stories of 2017 set to run and run

COMMENT: Major stories of 2017 set to run and run

We may be bidding farewell to 2017 but many of the news stories of the year will continue to reverberate long after the last twilight sets on December 31st.

This is particularly the case with arguably the two major local stories of the year - the furore over the future of of Portlaoise Hospital and the flooding in Mountmellick and Portarlington.

The hospital saga looks set to run and run. Just before Christmas the Health Minister, Simon Harris committed to a consultation process with the staff and public on the future of the hospital.

This was after a convoluted few days during which the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group announced its intention to publish its plan, a major part of which includes the downgrade of Portlaoise.

The announcement was abandoned, but not before drawing the further ire of the local hospital committee and a threatened protest march in Dublin.

The consultation process is at least welcome, but it should have been undertaken some time ago.

And it's not too difficult to figure out what the tone of it will be.

However, it is an opportunity for local stakeholders to articulate their position in a cogent manner.

We have an excellent case for retention of services at Portlaoise hospital and the challenge now is to get the relevant authorities to take heed of these arguments.

As the year draws to a close many of the people and families worst affected by the flash flooding in Mountmellick and Portarlington still find themselves struggling to cope with the damage wrought by the floods.

Indeed the scale of the flooding is still being realised at ground level. Many of those worse affected are only getting back into their homes and trying to get their lives back on track.

The very least they deserve is some assurance that something like this will not re-occur again.

What happened in Mountmellick needs to be assessed and the necessary measures put in place to avoid a reoccurence.

Some measures need to be put in place and its incumbent on local and national government to do this.People in the affected areas have a fear that this could happen again anytime. They should not have to worry about this as they attempt to get their lives back on track.