There were angry scenes at the Lakeland Forum tonight when a special meeting by the Western Health and Social Care Trust to discuss its £12.5 million saving plan had to be called off because the room was too small.

Over 200 people turned up to express their views on the controversial proposals that could see vital services at South West Acute Hospital removed. But the room at the Council owned facility, booked by the Trust some weeks ago, could not accommodate the large crowd.

There were calls by those protesting outside to boycott the meeting while many inside approached members of the Trust asking them to move the meeting to a bigger room.

Impartial Reporter:

Photo: Donnie Phair. 

“This is a shambles, I am asking people not to give this any credibility,” shouted Donal O'Cofaigh, as members of the Trust, including chief executive Anne Kilgallen, waited in the doorway.

“This is an insult,” shouted another man.

Outside a large crowd gathered in protest, while a police car stopped nearby.

“I would call upon the Trust to abandon this meeting tonight, abandon this sham of a consultation and rearrange it in a proper hall where people can have their say,” said Jim Quinn, of Unite the Union, to loud cheers.

Mr. Quinn described the handling of proceedings as an “absolute disgrace.”

“It's treating the people of this county with contempt. The Trust would need to learn that we are going to retain the hospital we have at the moment.

“I have no doubt that despite the actions of the Trust tonight that this campaign will spread to the workplaces, to the communities, to the villages, to the towns throughout this county,” he said.

Speaking to the crowd, one woman, who did not want to be named said: “I want the services to remain, we work damned hard, I worked all my life and I am not going to let it go.”

“I want my child born in Enniskillen,” shouted another.

Half an hour later and the meeting was called off but the decision did not go down well with some.

“We are staying,” shouted one woman.

“Cowards, cowards”, shouted another.

“Orchestrated,” said former SDLP MLA Richie McPhillips.

Impartial Reporter:

Photo: Rodney Edwards

“I am extremely angry because there was control freakery going on here tonight,” John Harkin (pictured above) told

“Tonight was a shambles,” said Patricia Donald.

There were also representatives in attendance from across the political spectrum, some of them addressed the crowd outside too.

“We stand united as people,” said Democratic Unionist's Raymond Farrell.

“We must double the people who are here tonight at the next meeting,” said Sinn Fein's Debbie Coyle.

"They should have been more aware of the amount of people who would turn up," said Ulster Unionist's Victor Warrington.

The Impartial Reporter asked Dr. Kilgallen, the Trust's newly appointed chief executive, if she felt the handing of tonight's meeting was 'shambolic'.

“I don't think that's fair,” she replied.

“In reality because of the strength of feeling outside the door it was clear it was going to be very difficult for people to come into the room. As a group there was a very strong sense that this room was too small.”

Dr. Kilgallen said the room was booked “about four weeks ago”.

When asked if the Trust should have considered moving to a bigger room much earlier given that hundreds of people turned up to a meeting on the future of stroke services in Enniskillen recently, she said: “We did try to get a bigger venue here.”

“We had conversations with the Council and they told us because of the booking they had downstairs they couldn't get a bigger room. They did offer us some other rooms.

“I deeply regret the decision that has taken tonight. It's difficult as a doctor to find myself in conflict with people who I am here to serve. That's difficult, the intention here is to hear people's voices.”

The meeting will now be held at a bigger room at the Lakeland Forum on Monday (October 2) at 7pm.