HSE denies giving green light to Wicklow hospice

Patron Daniel Day-Lewis warns of ‘armed rebellion’ if project not approved

 Actor Daniel Day-Lewis, patron of the Wicklow Hospice Foundation at the Magheramore site, Co Wicklow. Picture: Garry O’Neill

Actor Daniel Day-Lewis, patron of the Wicklow Hospice Foundation at the Magheramore site, Co Wicklow. Picture: Garry O’Neill

Thu, Aug 22, 2013, 08:51

The HSE has poured cold water on claims by campaigners in Co Wicklow of an imminent go-ahead for their plans to build a hospice for the county.

Oscar-winning actor and Wicklow resident Daniel Day- Lewis, who backs the plans to build the hospice near Brittas Bay, yesterday warned of “armed rebellion” if the HSE did not approve the project.

The actor was making a rare public appearance at the announcement by the Wicklow Hospice Foundation that it had almost reached its fundraising target of €3 million, representing half the building cost of the project. It wants the HSE to fund the remaining €3 million plus the €4 million a year operating costs.

Mr Day-Lewis, speaking after walking the proposed site at Magheramore, claimed the HSE had given assurances the project would be included in its service plan for 2014.

However, the HSE, while expressing support for the facility, said only that it had been included “for mention” in submissions made for the plan. A spokeswoman said it would need additional revenue funding for the development to take place, and added that Magheramore was only one of the sites being evaluated.

Day-Lewis, who lives in Annamoe, said he decided to back the campaign after witnessing first-hand the sensitive hospice care received by his late mother and father-in-law. He said he was struck by the compassion and consideration of palliative care staff at a “cottage hospital” in Britain who guided his mother Jill through the “awful experience” of dying.

‘Precious time’
“Even as absorbed as one is by grief, one is fully aware that they are allowing you a precious time. That is what hospice care is able to do – allowing this period of time which is going to be hard and awful, but precious as well,” he said.

The HSE had given firm assurances it would provide the rest of the funding and he would be astonished if it didn’t, he told The Irish Times. “On the grounds of these assurances we raised the money so if there was any question about honouring that commitment there would probably be an armed rebellion,” he said.

He said he was fully aware that the health service lacked money, but the Wicklow hospice wasn’t looking to gain at the expense of any other project as the shortage of facilities in the country was long recognised.

“Since the great crash, most people will think of 10 good reasons not to do a thing, and that can become a habit. Rather than lamenting all those great works that should have been done when the tills were ringing we should now set about achieving some of those things now.”

Day-Lewis, who arranged for the project to benefit from the Irish premiere of the film Lincoln, said it would be unethical for Wicklow to be chosen ahead of other locations for a hospice, simply because of his involvement.

However, it was “first in line” and thus deserved the go-ahead.

He also paid tribute to the Columban Sisters, who are donating the site for the hospice.

Kieran McLoughlin, chief executive of the American Ireland Fund, which is providing at least €50,000 for the project, described it as “a wonderful philanthropic response to the times we’re in”.

Evanne Cahill, chairwoman of the Wicklow Hospice Foundation, said the project was a “no-brainer” because home care for a terminally ill patient for six months cost the same as a hospital bed for one night.