"The largest public demonstration in Portlaoise for over 100 years"
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan took to the stage in Portlaoise tonight, in front of what he said was "the largest public demonstration in Portlaoise for over 100 years".
Speaking to the thousands gathered on Main Street marching to save Portlaoise hospital, the Laois Minister vowed to "look you in the eye and say to you that I will continue to do my utmost to preserve, maintain and improve services at our regional hospital in Portlaoise, because our lives matter".
In a rousing five minute speech, he said he would be taking the message of the people to Dublin early Monday morning.
"This report doesn't represent government policy, or the policy of my party, and it doesn't have any support across the seats in Dáil Eireann. Ultimately that's what matter," Minister Flanagan said.
He said the alternative plan proposed by Portlaoise medical professionals is "the document to take forward in the future for Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise".
He noted that Portlaoise Prison campus has "up to 1,000 prisoners at any one time, and hundreds of prison officers, I see many members in front of me here, and it is exactly because of day to day activities there, that we need medical services of Accident and Emergency in close proximity, in order to ensure safety there as well as across the general populace," he said.
He has invited Deputys Brian Stanley and Sean Fleming to join him with meeting Minister for Health Simon Harris "to resolve this issue".
He said that the HSE report is flawed because it was prepared without any consultation with Laois doctors or politicians.
"We were completely left out of the loop. Any future blueprint should be made in full consultation with the people of Laois, the people that I represent in the Dáil, and with council members and health professionals in our hospital.
"I commmit to seeking that resolution in conjunction with the people of our hospital here, for the preservation and maintenance of our services here, becuase our lives matter," Minister Flanagan ended.