Belfast or Blind on St Patrick’s Day

Belfast or Blind on St Patrick’s Day
Michael Collins TD with a group from West Cork, Cork City and Kerry departing for Belfast for cataract surgery in January. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

A GROUP of Corkonians will be missing the St Patrick’s Day parade as they head to Belfast on Saturday to undergo cataract surgery.

The Belfast or Blind initiative, operating since last year, saw 16 people travel to Belfast to undergo surgery last week.A further 14 will make the eight-hour journey this St Patrick’s Day leaving Cork at 6am.

“We’ve no choice but to bring them,” said Independent TD for West Cork, Michael Collins.

“Some of them are in danger of losing their site and nobody hesitated when we said that we could get them there on St Patrick’s Day, they were delighted. This seems like it’s going to become the normal situation which is not right, the overnment need to ensure that people can undergo this surgery in their own country without travelling for hours on end,” he added.

“The responses I’ve got from the Taoiseach and Minister Coveney in the Dail suggest nothing will be done, that Belfast is the only way.”

Cork native Gerry Higgins, aged 89, travelled to Belfast under the initiative, set up by Deputy Collins, in December to undergo cataract surgery on one eye. He travelled again last week to have surgery on his other eye.

Mr Higgins himself had been trying to secure cataract surgery for more than four years. Speaking to the Evening Echo in December, he revealed he would like to get back driving so he could return to his role as a meals on wheels delivery service.

“It’s a life-changing operation for so many people,” said Deputy Collins. “They get their sight and their lives back.“Some of them have been unable to see loved ones in years, one man threw away his glasses, which he had for over 30 years, after the operation,” he added. “Gerry is back driving now, delivering meals on wheels and it’s just brilliant for him and so many others to get this surgery.”

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