The people of South and East Down have been unwavering in their support for the Downe Hospital and other hospital services.
For more than a generation the community has campaigned relentlessly for the retention and enhancement of local services.
Our resolve as a community has never weakened. It never will.
Face with the recent reduction in services at the Downe, with the loss of 24-hour emergency department and the recent reduction in bed numbers at the Downe, the community is demonstrating yet again why we stand four square behind the Downe.
The publication two weeks ago of the Donaldson Report, sounding like the death knell for the accident and emergency provision at local hospitals, even enhanced local hospitals, has further heightened our resolve.
Our community is well used to fighting for local services. We will not be found wanting on this occasion either.
It was made clear to me at recent campaign meetings that my colleagues in the Down Community Health Committee felt that the community wanted to express their strength through a march and rally.
Our march and rally is on the theme of ‘Love the Downe’, and we will express our love in very large numbers on St Valentine’s Day.
I believe that any political party that seeks to use this issue for party political advantage will pay a heavy price.
If local democracy and local accountability are what the Northern Ireland Assembly has delivered, I have no doubt that our campaign will be successful.
The Downe is the people’s hospital. It was built due to pressure from the ordinary people of Down District.
Great community campaigners in the past such as the late Dick Shannon, fought for the Downe.
Great people such as Anne Shannon, Cecil Maxwell, Dermot McNabb, Anne Trainor and many, many others give selflessly of their time and energy to protect local services.
We will not be denied.
If you care, you will be there.
(Chairman of the Down Communbity Health Committee.)