Justin backs health pledges

Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson with Julie Flaherty, Justin Weir and Andy Allen at the UUP Party Conference
Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson with Julie Flaherty, Justin Weir and Andy Allen at the UUP Party Conference

Donaghcloney man Justin Weir joined local MLA Jo-Anne Dobson as she led a very emotional health section at the recent Ulster Unionist Party Conference.

As he spoke to conference the local man explained the rigours of being a renal patient at Daisy Hill Hospital.

Justin, along with 12 members of his family, have a genetic kidney disease which means that he spends 13 and a half hour of his life, every single week, on dialysis.

Supporting the change in the local organ donation laws which Mrs Dobson is proposing he said: “Imagine the Soft Opt-Out System had been in place years ago, I would almost certainly be standing here telling you a very different story. A light at the end of a very dark tunnel came in the form of a possible change in current organ donation laws, led by Jo-Anne.

“I remember thinking - here is a once ordinary Banbridge girl doing her very best to change something that will affect me, a very ordinary Banbridge boy.”

Also speaking in the health section Julie Flaherty, from Portadown, spoke about her beloved son Jake, she said: “Jake lived for 732 days. Every single day of his life, whether at home with us or in hospital involved the input of a health professional.”

Praising local health service staff she said: “Jake was cared for at home, in Craigavon Area Hospital and in Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children and was loved by everyone who so tenderly cared for and did everything in their power, here in Northern Ireland, to keep him with us.”

Julie joined Jo-Anne in making a direct plea to the Health Minister not to focus on figures and statistics but to take a caring and compassionate approach to the health of those who are most vulnerable in our society. She said Jake was “not a number and not a statistic- except our one in a million”.

Completing the trio, new party member Ranger Andy Allen explained why he was supporting the armed forces covenant and talked about his experience of the health service.

Calling for the full implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland he concluded: “The failure to implement the same legislation that provides the right support for healthcare, housing and training to our veterans and their families in the rest of our United Kingdom here in Northern Ireland is an act of disrespect for every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform, regardless of whether they were born in Glasgow, Belfast or Dublin.”

Mrs Dobson paid tribute to all three, “This was such an emotional part of our conference and I thank Julie, Justin and Andy for coming forward to share their deeply personal stories with us.

“All too often the real problems facing people in their daily lives do not receive the attention they deserve, that’s why it is so important that the Ulster Unionist Party are taking forward issues including the retention of heart surgery for children in Northern Ireland, the modernisation of our organ donation laws, equal access to cancer drugs for local patients and the advancement of an Armed Forces Covenant for veterans and their families.”