A protest was held in Enniskillen at the weekend by local trade unionists, socialists and healthcare activists who voiced their concerns about “the chronic underfunding of front line services” and called for an end to “creeping privatisation” of the National Health Service (NHS).
The Enniskillen protest coincided with demonstrations in Belfast and across England, including a major rally in London.
The UK-wide protests called for an NHS Reinstatement bill which would reverse NHS privatisation and reinstate the founding NHS principles of being truly public, fully protected and free at point of delivery.
The Scottish National Party in Scotland and Plaid Cymru in Wales regularly voice opposition to the privatisation of the NHS, while Labour’s 2016 manifesto pledged that the NHS will be modernised but not privatised.
“An NHS Reinstatement bill will place the responsibility for providing healthcare back directly with the Department of Health,” said Donal O’Cofaigh, spokesman for Fermanagh Save Our Services (SOS), an independent campaign which has been officially endorsed by the Fermanagh Council of Trade Unions and is supported by a number of unions, including Unite.
“We want an end to private medicine sucking resources out of our public healthcare system, an end to PFIs, public resources to reduce the lengthening waits for treatment through focussing all resources on core NHS provision and an end to the waste associated with maintaining the architecture necessary to enable further privatisation,” he stated.
Fermanagh SOS members believe that “the cuts, closures and waiting lists we have been experiencing to our NHS result from an engineered crisis underpinned by chronic underfunding - the goal is to open the door to private medicine and private interests,” said Mr. O’Cofaigh.
He believes that an NHS Reinstatement bill would “scrap internal market facilitation mechanisms such as the Clinical Commissioning Groups.”
Speakers in Enniskillen included: Daniel Waldron, from Northern Ireland Save our Services; Benny Cassidy, a lifelong healthcare trade unionist; Caroline Wheeler, a health and social care activist and member of Fermanagh SOS; Dianne Little, a healthcare activist and founder of Saving Necarne and Donal O’Cofaigh, a member of Fermanagh SOS and Unite. The rally was chaired by Padraig Murphy, Chair of Fermanagh SOS. 
The group is calling for the repeal of the Donaldson and Bengoa reports into reforming Northern Ireland’s healthcare system. Mr. O’Cofaigh describes them as “blueprints for privatisation and rationing of services.” Fermanagh SOS were “happy” with the turnout and Saturday and Mr. O’Cofaigh reported: “People seemed uplifted by the fact that there was a group out there fighting for the NHS.”