Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Published: Irish Times, 9 March 2013

The toughest journey

cancer bus
It’s 7.15am at the Dry Arch filling station in Letterkenny and a hard frost is down outside. A lorry driver bounds in from the darkness, rubs his hands together and orders a bowl of porridge at the hot food counter. In the corner, Sky News is reporting live from Los Angeles, where post-Oscar festivities are still in full swing.

But customers here don’t pay the TV much attention. It’s Monday morning, it’s -5°C and we’re a long way from Tinseltown. Out on the forecourt, Eamon McDevitt is running through the names on today’s passenger list. A cancer survivor himself, he has been providing a free bus service for Donegal patients requiring radiation treatment at University College Hospital, Galway for more than three and a half years.

Two of his passengers, William and Margaret from Greencastle, have already been on the road for an hour and a half this morning, driving from their home on the Inishowen peninsula, to take their places on the coach today. In total, the round trip from Greencastle to Galway is more than 600km.

It seems incredible, on such a tiny island, that cancer patients should have to travel such distances to receive treatment. McDevitt agrees. “Imagine a map of Ireland, ” he says. “Draw a line from Galway in the west to Dublin in the east. There are eight cancer centres of excellence below that line [Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway and four in Dublin] and zero above it.”

“Surely to God, we deserve one in the northwest? Even if it was in Sligo. Driving up and down to Galway from Donegal just doesn’t make sense.”

Those who defend the present system point out that centralising cancer services at eight high-grade treatment centres around the country has resulted in an improvement in survival rates. They argue that the northwest does not have a sufficient population base to justify locating a centre there and that it is a mere quirk of history and geography that has left Donegal out on a limb like this.

Obviously, McDevitt doesn’t see things that way. “We’re either citizens or we’re not,” he says. “It’s that simple”

At 7.30am, McDevitt’s creaky, 22-seater coach pulls out onto the N13 with a half dozen people on board. William from Greencastle tells me he has 37 radiotherapy sessions scheduled over eight weeks to treat his prostate cancer. Fortunately, he has secured Monday-Friday accommodation at Inis Aoibhinn, a free residential care centre run by the Cancer Care West charity on the grounds of UCHG.

Like almost everyone I speak to today, he bemoans the lack of radiation oncology services in the northwest. But he cannot speak highly enough of the treatment he is receiving in Galway. He has his own room, a shower and tea-making facilities. His wife Margaret is welcome to stay and there’s always something on in the evenings.

At Kilross, there’s a parked car waiting for us on the roadside. A mother and daughter say their goodbyes. A few minutes later we reach our second pick-up point outside Ballybofay, where two more parked cars are waiting. McDevitt greets everyone warmly, welcomes them aboard and reminds us again to keep our seatbelts fastened. But what’s most notable is how effectively he manages to keep things moving.

The passengers are mostly older people. Some are travelling on the bus for the first time. They have loved ones to see off and baggage to stow. But delays are kept to a minimum. Everything proceeds with military precision.

When the Minister for Health cut subsidised bus services for Donegal cancer patients last year, he suggested public transport as a viable alternative. But the scheduled Bus Éireann service from Letterkenny to Galway takes five hours. Some cancer patients are obliged to drink three litres of water before receiving radiation treatment, meaning they would have to be nappied to make the journey without toilet stops.

The toilet issue won’t be as big a problem on the outbound journey today, McDevitt explains. But returning to Letterkenny after treatment on Friday morning, the bus will have to pull over nine or 10 times before it even reaches Tuam. “There are only two filling stations on that stretch of road. So most of the time passengers will have to go behind a well-sheltered tree, or a hedge on the side of the road. But at least we can facilitate that.”

Why not purchase a bus with a toilet onboard? He cites a lack of resources. “We’re a very small charity,” he says. “We don’t get a cent from the HSE or the Irish Cancer Charity. It’s a 24/7 battle for us even to exist.”

I look out the window and imagine how I would feel if a member of my family had to endure these sorts of indignities. To our left, an icy Lough Mourne glistens in the early morning sunshine.

Greencastle to Galway
At eight o’clock, the bus whistles through the Barnesmore Gap into south Donegal. On the radio, EU economics and monetary commissioner Olli Rehn tells Morning Ireland that ¤1 billion in savings the country made from the recent promissory note deal should not be regarded as a “windfall gain” for our economy.

There are a couple of snorts of derision down the back. Yes, we’re really livin’ la vida loca here, Olli. But all things considered, the mood on the bus is remarkably upbeat. “What drugs are you taking?” one man innocently asks his neighbour. “Oh, heroin most evenings,” the friend replies, matter-of-factly. “Marijuana first thing in the morning.”

The friend casts a furtive glance sideways, to see if the journalist onboard is listening. Then the pair chuckle amongst themselves.

Anne from Ballybofay is four weeks into a six-week programme of treatment for breast cancer. She says she loves Galway. She loves Inis Aoibhinn. She enjoys the massages on offer, the reflexology and nightly card games. Country singer John McNicholl and his band came to perform for them last week, she tells me. Even Daniel O’Donnell has been known to drop by occasionally.

“It’s like a four-star hotel,” she says. “A home from home. I’ll actually miss it when I leave.”

Up front, the male passengers are giving Eamon McDevitt some flack for his reluctance to overtake a slow-moving cattle trailer ahead. The final insult comes when both vehicles are overtaken by a truck carrying a mobile home on its trailer. This provokes a debate about overtaking in general, and whether or not it is illegal to overtake a school bus in the US.

By 8.45am, the frost has cleared. The radio is pumping out a solid diet of country n’ Irish and we’re enjoying glorious views of the sea at Mullaghmore. Having collected more passengers in Donegal town, Ballyshannon and Bundoran, we stop for our first toilet break at a Texaco station near the foot of Ben Bulben, in Grange, Co Sligo.

I get talking to Frank and Margaret from Donegal town. Frank is a retired engineer, Margaret a retired nurse. This is Frank’s second week of treatment for prostate cancer. Last week they stayed in a hotel and it was quite lonely. The radiation treatment itself only takes about 15 minutes. So they were left with 23 hours of the day to fill.

This week, they’ve gotten a place in Inis Aoibhinn. Margaret admits she hadn’t known Galway at all before this, but has come to love the city. “The shops, you mean,” smiles Frank. They’ve both been for long walks on the seafront at Salthill. Did they kick the wall at the end of the promenade, I ask? No, admits Margaret. They only recently learned about that Galway tradition. “So we’ll owe the wall a few kicks the next time we’re there,” she says.

Shortly after 9am, the bus rattles through Sligo town and hits the west of Ireland’s answer to Route 66, the N17. In a literal, figurative and spiritual sense, now we’re suckin’ diesel.

The far side of Collooney, we encounter that truck carrying a mobile home on its back again. Alas, our friend has flown too close to the sun this morning. He is broken down on the hard shoulder. I give him a condescending salute as we overtake. A sign says “Galway 128km”. Almost halfway there now.

By 9.45am, we’ve passed through Tubbercurry and Charlestown and now Knock airport is looming into view on the horizon. During our next toilet break, I’m approached by Donal from Bundoran. He wants me to know that, as a member of a political party he is too ashamed now to identify (I can guess), he once campaigned against the closure of breast cancer services in Sligo.

But such is his admiration for the standard of care in Galway, he says, that he has changed his mind on the issue. Amongst passengers from north Donegal, that’s not a popular opinion. Eamon McDevitt, for one, while recognising the excellent care patients receive in Galway, nonetheless insists that a facility of the same standard should exist in the northwest. He recalls a conversation he had with consultant oncologist (and now senator) Prof John Crown.

“Prof Crown is a man who calls a spade a spade. He told us that there is absolutely no need for four centres of excellence in Dublin. He said two would service the city adequately. Three would over-service it.”

(Contacted for this article, Prof Crown confirms the substance of those remarks but denies ever using the term “centres of excellence”. He considers the existing centres far from excellent. “The Sligo, Donegal, Leitrim region has a population of a quarter of a million people,” he says. “Which I consider more than adequate to support a cancer treatment facility. An American city of that size would probably have three cancer facilities.”)

After Tuam, the landscape changes dramatically. The soft and craggy boglands of the northwest give way to the flat green fields and neat stone walls of east Co Galway. I ask McDevitt about the long heralded panacea to all of Donegal’s cancer woes, the proposed radiotherapy facility at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry.

Officially, the Government in Dublin is committed to providing ¤19 million for this £56 million (¤65 million) development and services are due to come online in 2016. But McDevitt is sceptical that the political will really exists on either side of the border to push the project to completion. “We were promised Altnagelvin in 2009. Then it was put back to 2010. Then we were guaranteed it would happen in 2012. Now we’re being told 2016 at the earliest.”

“As far as we’re concerned in Donegal, we’re not holding any faith in it.”

In the meantime, his Good and New Cancer Group charity continues to muddle along as best it can.“It costs about ¤1,000 a week to keep this service going. Right now, we have enough money in the kitty to keep us going another four and a half weeks.”

The group’s fundraising is mostly done by former patients. Frank and Margaret from Donegal town admit they’d never heard of the Good and New Cancer Group or Cancer Care West before Frank was diagnosed with prostate cancer. But now they’re determined, once he’s recovered, to help raise funds for both charities. “It’s very daunting to be diagnosed with cancer,” says Margaret. “But there’s great humanity in these services.”

We’re now crawling through Claregalway, on the home stretch. McDevitt shares a couple of anecdotes about the aftermath of the withdrawal of the subsidised door-to-door bus service to Dublin. One recovering Donegal cancer patient, aged 82, was called to Dublin for a follow-up visit. It was the first time he had made his way to the hospital on public transport.

By the time he arrived at Busáras, he had become confused and could no longer recall his own name nor what he was doing in Dublin. It was left to a good Samaritan, who happened to be passing, to search his pockets, find the letter containing details of his appointment and get in touch with the hospital. A taxi driver brought the man to the hospital and waited with him until he was admitted.

Another elderly man was returning to Donegal from Dublin, when he got out for a short break at Monaghan bus station. After using the bathroom, he returned to the number 36 bus and boarded it. Unfortunately, he had boarded the wrong bus and ended up back in Dublin again. “He was too afraid ever to get off the bus in Monaghan again.”

At 11.15am, we cross the Quincentennial Bridge in Galway and 10 minutes later we’re pulling up in the grounds of University College Hospital. We’ve made it in just under four hours, an hour faster than CIE. The following evening, I speak to McDevitt on the phone. It took five months of persuasion before I was allowed to travel with him and, even now, he still seems a little apprehensive about what I will write.

He tells me how his own wife got breast cancer in 1996, when she was just 36 year old. Their youngest child was six weeks old at the time. She received chemotherapy and has since made a full recovery. That was the beginning of his involvement in cancer fundraising. He mentions AXA Insurance in Letterkenny, who have insured the charity’s nine-seater bus free of charge, and begs that I mention them in my article.

“I just want them to know how grateful we are and how much we appreciate it.”

But he his modest about his own contribution. “In the long, lonely journey of cancer,” he says. “Having a service like this up and running helps ease the burden for these people and takes another worry off their shoulders at a vulnerable time. Because as we always say, if you live in Donegal and you’re diagnosed with cancer, you either travel or you die.”

Donations can be made to the Good and New Cancer charity at tel: 074 9113437

UPDATE (18/10/2013): Thanks to everyone for the huge response to this article. Aoife Moylan has just set up a page where you can all DONATE. PLEASE DO!

The Good and New Facebook page is here if any of you want to get in touch with Eamon that way.

April 10th, 2016.

107 Responses to “The toughest journey”

  1. TAD Says:

    Very vivid, & great quotes. By the way, you CAN overtake a schoolbus in the US — but not when it’s dropping off passengers and has its red flashing warning lights on….

  2. Josephine Says:

    This is a brilliantly moving emotive piece of writing, sounds like the start of a good book. I’d buy the book and think of how much money and awareness it could raise for these two charities.

  3. Bill Scott Says:

    After reading this article I find it astonishing that any one in this day and age has to travel a round trip of 600km for treatment .
    The Minister for Health should hang his head in shame as this is a disgrace. Every person regardless off religion deserves proper treatment not having to travel that distance .
    Would the Minister let his family endure this I would say not under any circumstances .
    If these so called people that say they were running the country would just stop and see what’s happening . And stop all the freebies . Pay rises for themselfs .stop all the expenses they run up thousands per year . I agree there have to be cuts but not on health .should it be North or South .
    We all have a right to proper health care sorry your passengers are not getting it . As you so sadly say Travel or die.
    This would not be allowed in the U.K. so why in Ireland ?
    It should not be down to charity it is the responsibility of the Government. Good luck and well done

  4. Jpb Says:

    A fantastic story and very moving ,Eammon is providing a great service ,if there is any fundraising events I would be glad to sponcer a framed picture from my web site xxx

  5. Tracey Fitzpatrick Says:

    What a fantastic piece of writing. It’s in times of need we realise that there are so many fantastic people in this world that will come to our aid. An amazing service and such a gentleman. Please god the government will realise the mistake they made and reinstate our cancer services in the North West.

  6. Dara Higgins Says:

    Brilliant and moving story told “The way it is” congrats to Eamonn and Lynn, and all who help to keep this brilliant service going, pity our government and other powers that are, cant do more to promote and help this brill service,

  7. Margaret Says:

    Yes definitely a book in the making, all those great stories. “If cancer don’t kill you, the journey will” or, “The stories of a cancer bus driver”. All the best with your excellent charity.

  8. Bob Says:

    Any online method of donation?

  9. Eoin Says:

    To all of those asking, the phone number quoted above is the only method I’m aware of for donating. If anyone knows another way, let me know and I’ll update that information.

    Incidentally, this piece has received something extraordinary like 5,000 hits today out of the blue. Can someone tell me how you all came across this page today?

    Eoin (journalist who wrote piece)

  10. Kirsty Says:

    Most moving story I ever read! Would love if members of the Irish government had to make this journey once maybe they would understand!! Both charities have hearts of gold and if they ever need help fundraising, I’d be more than happy to help!

  11. mariea doherty mc ginty Says:

    very well written … heart felt .. sad … meaninful look into this journey … i seen this piece via facebook

  12. Kathleen McGuinness Says:

    We here in Killybegs have been fundraising for this great cause for years, we collect good and used clothes and Eamonn collects them when ever my husband cannot get into the garage. They also have a shop in Letterkenny where you can find great second bargains. This Bus is a great service for patients, before this some member of the family had to take a day off work and drive them to Galway and go back on the Friday to take them home. So please support and again many thanks to Eamonn and Lynn.

  13. Rose Doyle Says:

    Worse than the above, Falcarragh cancer patients, myself included, have to pay €130 for a taxi to join this bus. Same to join the subsidised flight from Carrickfin/Dublin.

  14. Molly Reynolds Says:

    Can I suggest a copy of above to Min.J.Reilly and all his side kicks

  15. Dorothy Morris Says:

    I drove every inch of that article with them.. It’s a long lonely trip at the best of times not to mind having treatment ahead of you. It just shows what ” people” can actually do if they rally together – sadly our Government have forgotten so many vulnerable of our society. I wish these people well and good health, and to Eamon McDevitt, YOU ARE A HERO !

  16. Ali Says:

    Such a well written piece. Tears in my eyes. Why not set up an idonate or mycharity link and if readers wish they can make a donation to help keep this brilliant service going

  17. Maire Dunleavy Says:


    I found a link to this article on Facebook, I hope it goes viral….might get some attention for Eamon and his dedicated work.

  18. Gavin Bonner Says:

    Total joke that patients have to go through this even though they are doing so with high spirits they should not have to. But at the same time this need to keep going and be supported.

    Really well written Eoin. Gives you a real feeling of what is happening. You could maybe edit the article to add in a donation page when they set it up. Looks like there would be a few willing to sponsor..

  19. Fiona Skinnader Says:

    This is a great resource to have!! Please support it locally!! Im monaghan we are very lucky-we have a similar service in monaghan to all dublin hospitals for treatment which I have used the journey isnt as long but the service none the less us invaluable! As family &friends need a day off too even if u cant get a break from your diagnosis!!
    The ministers need to live somewhere like falcarragh for example to see how tough the journey ( not just getting from A2B) can be!

  20. Angela Cannon Says:

    Please can a justgiving link or some sort of fund page/FB page be setup for this fantastic cause. I discovered this story posted on Facebook and I too have added this to my page, where a number of my friends have also shared this link. Im from Donegal living in London and the easiest method of donating is always online rather than a phone number.

    Many thanks.

  21. Aoife Says:

    I just came across this article by chance on Facebook but I am so glad I read it. It is an absolute disgrace that there is nowhere in the Northwest for radiation treatment. Fair play to everyone involved in keeping this bus up and running.
    Those powerful few should be made do this journey once or twice.

  22. Lorraine Says:

    What a Hero! Its nice to see there are still some generous people in this world.. Is there anyway of making donations online?

  23. Fiona darwen Says:

    What a terrible disease to be diagnosed with and to also have to endure the burden of this long trip. The Irish government should indeed be ashamed of the state of their health system! I hope things change in the not too distant future.

  24. Clare Says:

    Hi Eoin

    Your story is being shared all over FB. Very moving piece. Good luck to all those involved and speedy recovery to the patients.

  25. Angela Cannon Says:

    I found this Facebook page for the Good and New Cancer Charity, it would be excellent if this charity could setup a link on their Facebook page to donate online.


  26. Eoin Says:

    Thanks Angela.

    I just added a link to that above. I really hope all of these Facebook shares (20,000 hits since Wednesday!) translates into something positive for Eamon and his charity.

    Eoin (journalist)

  27. Karen Says:

    A very moving piece. This should not be happening not in this day and age. These people have enough to cope with without having to endure such along hard and difficult journey. The problem is that this government truly believes that the people of Donegal are second rate citizens so therefore they don’t need to have a center of excellence, so hey lets make them travel 600km for treatment, they won’t mind so lets forget about them. This government should hang their heads in shame, take note and implement major changes for the people of Donegal. Eamonn you are a true hero.

  28. Kate Says:

    An incredible article about a heart wrenching story of a community from Donegal.
    Hats off to AXA Letterkenny for their huge good will and to Eamon, the bus driver for having the energy and determination to do that huge drive.

  29. Orla Says:

    This is such a lovely story. My parents live in Donegal and my dad was like one of these patients. He had to travel to Sligo, Galway and Dublin for his cancer treatment but it really is true “if you live in Donegal and are diagnosed with cancer, you either travel for treatment or die”. Even now after five years my dad has to travel to Dublin 3-4 times a year for further cancer treatment. Donegal and its people deserve a center! Keep going to all of you, especially Eamon!

  30. Paul Maguire Says:

    Get everyone to share this on facebook – it deserves to go viral.
    Also a copy should be sent to the Minister for Health’s office and a response demanded

  31. Michelle Says:

    Every family has been hit with cancer in some way, an excellent piece by the author to make you realise what some patients have to go through. How do you really bring it to the Minister’s attention though, its only through loss of service that something will be done. While the public are donating out of their own pocket (and I’m not for one minute saying to stop) the people making the decisions will quite happily sit in Dublin patting themselves on the back at a job (not) so well done? Even the experts have given their opinion and it didn’t make a difference. And hats off to AXA insurance for their contribution – going to see if I can give them my business.

  32. Fidelma Mahon Says:

    Heartrending portrayal of a country in crisis. Send a copy to Merkel & Co., who continue to tell us we’re “fine”. Oh really? “Either we’re citizens or we’re not”, now there’s a question for Reilly to answer re this issue! Keep her lit Eamon, you are a good man & thank you to Eoin for highlighting via a genuine piece of writing – (saw it via fb).

  33. fergal coyle Says:

    Great article about bus service from Donegal to Galway for cancer care.
    Anything i can do to help that service let me kno.

  34. Eileen McElhinney Says:

    I’m sharing this on my face book. I have many contacts outside of Ireland, loads here to.Shame Shame on the government and the so called Health service for this state of affairs. The reason i’m sharing this is to embarrass the power’s that be in the hope that they will get off their backsides and DO something about this and of course all the other shortcomings’s.It goes without saying that this is a brilliantly written article Well done.

  35. Michelle Says:

    Thank you for bring this disgraceful situation to public attention. Please will someone set up a justgiving page to collect money for this deserving charity service.

  36. Eoin Says:

    Thanks Michelle, one is being set up as we speak. Will update above as soon as I have the link!

  37. Emby O'Donnell Says:

    It is incredible in this day and age that cancer patients have to suffer the additional trauma of travelling to and from Galway. The journey when one is well enough can be quite draining never mind before and after such treatment. I CONGRATULATE EAMONN AND HIS HELPERS AT THE “Good and New Cancer Charity SHOP” FOR THE EXCELLENT SERVICE THEY PROVIDE for cancer patients. They give so unstintingly of their time and expertise in this field. I’m sure in the present climate donations etc. will be less than heretofore. I appeal to anyone who can help EAMONN and his HELPERS, in any way, to continue this excellent service. I trust the Government will hang their heads in shame at the state of the health service.

  38. John Herron Says:

    Planning permission for a brand new radiotherapy treatment centre based at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry has recently been approved (Feb 2013). The new centre will be ready at the end of 2015 and will be able to cater for patients from the whole of the north west region including Donegal. At last a success story for North-South cooperation. Lets hope the same can be achieved on the roads, e.g. A5 from North West to Dublin!

  39. Aoife Says:

    This link can be used to donate to the charity that runs the cancer bus:

  40. Angela Cannon Says:

    Hi Eoin, I clicked on the donate link that you added to your fantastic article and it brings you into the Good and New Charity Shop Facebook page, unfortunately there isn’t a link on their facebook page where you can just click into and donate online(as of yet) and I wonder if it were possible (as you mentioned at the bottom of your article)for you/Aoife Moylan to setup a link for this charity on the bottom of this article at as I feel alot of people are extremely moved by this story and would like to donate. (this link might be of help to setup online) https://www.causes.com/nonprofits

  41. Eoin Says:


    Apologies, I’ve just fixed the link above. It is http://www.idonate.ie/1119_the-good-and-new-cancer-charity.html

    Please share the link as widely as you can!


  42. Angela Cannon Says:

    Fantastic Eoin, I have shared this article again on facebook with the link included. Great job! x

  43. Jacqui Says:

    This is such a strong an emotional piece ,, have tears in my eyes writing this , recalling similar journeys to Dublin… Marleys buses.. Some days 2 mini buses full and a 7 seater taxi had to taxi patients a maybe a family member….. Till they stopped there service…. Not economically viable they said……

  44. Jacqui Says:

    Just to be clear on the bit I’d written above it was a government decision to withdraw busses.. Not Marleys… The bus drivers I could not comment highly enough for their care, support an encouragement ….

  45. Martin Murphy Says:

    Thank you for that very moving, touching and insightful story. With any luck someone in government will read it and feel thoroughly ashamed and embarrassed at the way they have let the people of the northwest down.

  46. martina Says:

    Great article, cancer services and neurology services in Donegal are ridiculous, fair play to this man great community spirit x

  47. Elaine Says:

    Think this relates to some aspect of everyone reading this. Both my parents have gone through cancer and my father has used the bus to travel to Dublin for treatment.( My uncle and grandfather also availed of the service) My aunt is currently receiving treatment in Galway. This service is without doubt essential to the people of Inishowen but surely with the number of people diagnosed with cancer in Inishowen/ Donegal would it not make sense to have a regional centre for all.

  48. Aoife Says:

    Such an emotional piece, wonder why it has just gone viral, shocked when i seen the date it was wrote, It’s tragic, hopefully they get a bus with a toilet soon, well done to Eamonn, Axa Insurance and all in the shop, without yous I would dread to think where these people would be.

  49. Patrick Says:

    I was born in Derry. I always thought “The Free State” was a Christian, God fearing Country where everybody was loved and treated as equal. What right has any Government to deny equality in either medical or employment needs. Proud to be Irish…. But this Government needs to be abolished and people all over should now vote with their feet.

  50. Patricia Sharkey Says:

    Well done on a wonderful and absorbing piece of writing. God Bless all of those involved in this lifeline and may their good work continue. Maybe a miracle will happen and our government will respond to the needs of the people in such far flung areas of Donegal. Many people do not realise how big Donegal is, this may help to give them a better image.

  51. JMC Says:

    A well written piece indeed. It is hard for everyone at the moment to provide a decent level of service. Having been to “rapid access clinic” for tests for the last 2/3 years, I find the place bleak, dreary, lacking in privacy etc. On the last point, on privacy, I find it galling that men are asked about their medical condition by a practice nurse in the middle of the corridor. I just wish a journalist would write an article on this clinic because it is one of the most shocking places I ever had the misfortune to visit

  52. Eugene Mc Gettigan Says:

    To everyone making this journey, you are all my hero’es, keep up the great work Eamon and all concerned, and folks please do all you can to help, keep the faith.

  53. kate Says:

    ive been traveling on this bus with my son for chemotherpy in galway its true you travel or die but what a great service this bus provides the goverment should be ashamed they should be funding this bus Eammon is a god send to all who uses his bus doing it all with the goodness of his heart long may it continue

  54. Michelle Says:


  55. Hazel Marsden Says:

    I cannot believe that if any of my dear family or friends who live in Donegal, needed treatment for cancer, they would have to travel to Galway for treatment. This is a really interesting insight into a wonderful service provided by a very worthwhile charity, but why isnt there a hospital bus, it is a total disgrace that fundraisers have to raise money for essiental services!!

  56. Eamonn Mc Devitt Says:

    Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to write on this article,we are very grateful at the Good and New Cancer charity for all your good wishes .we will try very hard to keep this cancer bus service going as Eoin has stated we recieve no funding whatsoever from the HSE, or The Irish Cancer Society who raised €671,000-00 with Relay For Life in a twelve month period here in Donegal,we asked if they would help us fund the service only to be told ,we dont do buses ,even though the money was raised in Donegal. Once again thank you.

  57. Yasmin Says:

    This is wrong in this day and age. This wonderful piece is being passed around Facebook like wildfire and may many more read it.

  58. linda Says:

    very moving piece my own father died from cancer so i know the long hard fight and eamonn you are a saint and i will remember you in my prayers keep up this fantastic work xx

  59. Bee Gee Says:

    So, the irish Cancer Society don’t ‘do’ buses – what do they do for the people of Donegal with the money raised there? Since the government don’t ‘do’ buses for Donegal cancer sufferers either, I think funds should be re-directed from them to THIS very worthwhile service which directly helps those with cancer in the county.
    I’m appalled at the ICS AND the government – double whammy for the forgotten county :(

  60. Brenda Says:

    This article made me cry. In this day and age this is disgusting. maybe if local politicians focused on an issue like this instead of petty little grips then they would truly be a representative of the people.Once again the North West in particular Donegal gets forgotten. Dealing with cancer is hard enough without having to go through third world like efforts to get treatment.I miss home so much but thank god I am living in New Zealand. Get your act together North western politicians and all u guys in Dublin just because Donegal is in Ulster doesn’t mean it is Northern Ireland’s job to look after the health of Irish tax paying citizens. This is so shameful that I wasn’t going to share it with my NZ friends but I want them to see how lucky they are to live in NZ.Well done Eamon and both charities, the world needs more people like u.

  61. Charlotte Says:

    My friend sent me on this blog to my FB page.. her heading was…Sad but interesting… And that it is my friends, a sad reality, I live in Boston and I felt sad & helpless,but Im glad you posted a phone # is I can make a donations to these two brilliant charities..I will share this great read to everyone on my friends..To everyone involved in this charity be very proud of yourselves.. your all amazing people.
    Thank you.
    Oh by the way, you can overtake a school bus in the USA only when its moving.. if the bus is stopped with the stop sign out and the red lights flashing..its with dropping off children or picking up..never pass at those times.
    Good luck to you all.

  62. Kathleen McGuinness Says:


  63. Mike G Says:

    Very moving article and a disgrace that the government has effectively abandoned Donegal cancer suffers.

    Great work by Eamonn.

    Hope everyone can give something to support a very worthwhile cause:


  64. Annamarie Says:

    A thank you to Eoin on behalf of the people of Donegal for getting the message out there of the great work Eamonn is doing. I hope everyone who has seen it will act and do their bit to ensure Eamonn gets the funding he and the cancer patients in Donegal truly deserve.

  65. Karen Says:

    What an extremely well written article and it brought tears to my eyes. this is something that needs to be printed in the national papers so that the rest of the country (who will most likely have easier access) can see what it is like to have to travel such long distances when you are very ill. On the plus side it is wonderful to see that there are still people who are willing to give up their time to do these things.

  66. Eoin Says:

    Thanks Karen – I should point out it did originally appear in the Irish Times in March.

  67. P J O Toole Says:

    Its not a service that I have yet used, but some friends have done so, and the amount of praise for the bus and driver knows no bounds, volunteers are hard to come by especially ones with so much dedication, charity should begin at the homes of people who suffer from serious illness not at the homes of leinster house dust collectors

  68. deirdre Says:

    This story is son well written and so true to what cancer patients go through daily. I work in admin in the front line of an oncology unit and I see people v
    Rushing off to get their bus back to sligo after having their treatment and they have to turn around and go it all again the next day. They put us to shame, we love to.complain but they come in and are always so cheerful and happy to be alive. People like Eamonn are few and far between but Eamon never underestimate the great work you are doing for all these patients not to mention their families.

  69. p.ashworth Says:

    How disgraceful for your government not to be taking all this travelling into consideration for these sick people.shame on them and hopefully they never have to have treatment.

  70. sheila Says:

    i have no words to say..except UNBELIEVABLE,,this is 2013.!!!

  71. Padraic Says:

    The minister should be ashamed of himself and thank God for such a great kind man as Eamon .This Govern and pass Governments never treated Donegal and them counties around the border like others like Cork Galway Limrick all counties below them .I come from Galway they have great service down here but it not right to make sick people travel this long journey and the Health Board should supply a new bus with toilet surely that is not much to ask .

  72. Kevin mc Says:

    Come on Donegal, lets get behind this service and raise whatever funds are needed to cover this vital service. A few euros a year from every Donegal Man and Woman will do it. Well done to Eamonn and his team.

  73. Denise G Says:

    Wow its so nice to think that these wonderful, selfless people still exist in the country. Your an inspiration to the rest of us.
    I will share this link and donate xx

  74. Jake Says:

    The human spirit never ceases to amaze me, kindness and generosity of people, who themselves have experienced the devastation this disease can cause, make free their time and resources to help others suffering. Lets hope the Irish government share in some of the empathy shown to our sick, Its a tough road but stories like this inspire!

  75. David Says:

    As an American living in Connecticut I pray our new government Obamacare does not make our area another Donegal Town collection point for the cancer bus to New York City or Boston.

  76. Eoin Says:


    That’s maybe the most baffling comment ever posted to this website. You do realise that private health options are available in Ireland?

    The problem in Donegal is that universal public health services in the county do not go as far as they should?

    Every person, whoever they are, has a right to proper healthcare and basic human dignity. Not just the few.

    Obamacare, as it stands, falls far short of what decent, ordinary working people in the richest country in the world deserve.


  77. Anne Reid Says:

    I came across this page via the Irish Times. I have been living in Sydney for the past 5 years and I read the Irish Times online regularly. Such a simple piece of writing telling an amazing story of the kindness and genorosity of Eamonn and Lynn. The cancer patients themselves are incredible people going through such a horrendous ordeal and having to travel 600km on a bus with a few toilet stops in modern Ireland is nothing short of disgraceful.
    It is Oscar material and the monies earned if a docu/film were to be made would indeed I think fund a few bus services if not a cancer centre in the North-West.

  78. Anne Reid Says:

    Apologies, I saw the blog on Facebook

  79. jen Says:

    thanks for highlighting
    the awful reality. beautifully written piece

  80. sandra Says:

    This story breaks my heart, but it is a story I have first hand experience of, my aunt Susan did this journey for 6 wks back in 2010. She always spoke so highly of “Good & New” Inisheveen House & the hospital in Galway. Unfortunately she lost her battle to this awful disease in December last yr. She bore her illness with great courage & dignity till the end. She was so grateful for this facility. I was stocked to learn that there is “4″ centers of excellences in Dublin. WHY OH WHY DO WE PUT UP THIS .. Our local politicians fail us time & time again. We should not have to fundraise for such a vital service for people who are so so ill. If some of us had a cold we wouldn’t go on a bus journey at 5am in morning, yet these people who are so so ill have to… what can we do about it … We just sit back at take it time & time again in Donegal.. I applaud the work of Eamon & the team at good & new.. Please God you will raise enough funds to keep up this vital service.

  81. Valerie Says:

    I think my husband was another fortunate traveller to avail of this fantastic service last year. We picked the bus up in Charlestown. James was another driver. Same bus? It was very comfy actually, and had a loo! Good to see the site for donations. Disgraceful that it has to be run that way, but thank God for those that do run it, and indeed let us keep it going.

  82. Farawayvisions Says:

    Tender and humorous tale. A bus ride with a difference. Things I’d never thought about. My family live in Donegal, thankfully they’ve never had to use the service. Sadly, it sounds like there are more cuts in services to come.

  83. John Moylan Says:

    Very moving article.
    What a damning indictment of a two tier society, and a two tier health system skewed as usual towards Dublin. No other way to describe a system which over-supplies one part of the country at the expense of another. Shocking. That bus service is nothing short of a life saver and the operator a Saint. The HSE and public representatives should hang their heads in shame.

  84. Rosie Conneely Says:

    What a lovely piece of writing. Another lovely charity. My daughter spent some time in crumlin on St Johns Ward, thank god we are out the other side. It is sad to see that not only our government is not helping this charity and a number of other cancer charities but the Irish Cancer Charity who collect alot of money from the public do not support this charity or childrens charity. Don’t know why we bother to give money to The Irish Cancer Society if they continue not to support the charities that need the funding and families that need the financial help. Keep up the good work Eamonn.

  85. Marian Moore Says:

    Just to say my son travelled from Sligo to Galway for radiation and it was a bus with toilet. He since lost his battle with Leukemia and I cannot imagine travelling from Letterkenny. It is a disgrace that this Government continues to ignore the North West cancer services. We have set up a Trust Fund and will remember your charity. Good luck and well done.

  86. Marian Moore Says:

    This is a disgrace and should not be happening still. Shame on this Government. My son Marcus travelled for radiation on a bus from Sligo which had a toilet. I cannot imagine travelling from Letterkenny. We shall remember your charity when fundraising for Marcus Moore Trust

  87. Clodagh Says:

    This story has brought tears to my eyes. I currently live and work in the Middle East and my family are home in Donegal. I knew this situation was occurring but this piece is so emotive I want to do something to raise money for this wonderful charity. Their second hand shop in Letterkenny is fabulous and we actually got the candle holder for our wedding candles there last year and regularly give donations there. Eamon McDevitt, you are an amazing man. Keep up the good work.

  88. Louise Monaghan Says:

    Very moving. Am a cancer survivor with youth (ish) on my side so I really feel for the patients. It is like a third world country reading this story. Well done Eamonn. Maybe we should bring some of these Aid workers to Donegal. Keep up the good work

  89. Anthony Says:

    came across this today via Facebook. Very moving piece and has opened my eyes to something I didn’t know about. I’ll post this on via Facebook and hopefully it can go viral. Would also be worth letting the media know about this article and the sudden viral response it is getting.

  90. eamonn Says:

    Just a note about cancer services supposed to be coming in 2016 in derry(not holding our breath) if you live in west donegal it will take at least 4 to 5 hours travel there and back each day approx 160 miles to get treatment 800 miles per week ,this would be much much worse than at present travelling to galway on a monday and returing on a friday we say give us the cancer unit in donegal .

  91. joan Says:

    Very moving story , my Dad died in 2009 from cancer , his trips bk an forth to Letterkenny for chemo ,xrays , results etc really took its tole on him , so I can only imagine what those poor people go through week after week up an down to Galway
    A cancer unit would be most welcomed closer to home
    Well done Eamonn , great job.

  92. Deirdre Says:

    Centralization of services doesn’t work for the people covered by the Satellite hospitals… Its harder to access these services .. Are they going to give an a available bed to the person on a trolley in their A & E or make room for someone from Donegal.. We have a great hospital in Letterkenny with great staff.. We should have the money to provide the services we need.. Its a disgrace that our most vulnerable are treated this way… Policy makers don’t seem to get the human side of cuts .. What it means to individuals, and families on a physical, emotional and Psychological level. Great article to demonstrate the lack insight on the stupidity of across the board cuts and the resilience of people trying to survive untenable situations because of these cuts ..what a great charity demonstrating such commitment to others should be supported by all who can. Society as a whole should be standing up for the vulnerable not just a committed few.

  93. Siobhan Campbell Says:

    Holding a fundraising Xmas fancy dress party for this very worthy cause in Harkins bar in Brockagh on Sunday 22 Dec if any1 wud b intesested… spot prizes required and gratefully received….

  94. Mary Worn Says:

    I am going in for my 4th Chemo n 3rd Herceptin Treatment today…I was all clear for nearly 3 years and then it came back…But I am so lucky to live in the catchment area for UCLH here in London, its 15 mins door to door. My Mum drives patients to Dublin twice a week for their treatments as a volunteer, My eldest brother picks patients up from Wexford for the same thing.It makes me so angry that the Irish Government cannot see what the lack of care being available is devastating lives ,families and communities. I don’t think that anyone fighting a critical illness should be treated by such disrespect. It’s a lonely hard road but at least with people like Eamonn, Me Ma and Brother folk can keep going and feel hope on the dark days ….I agree with Deirdre , She has put it much more eloquently! Mind you my brain is Chemo mush.

  95. peter randall Says:

    Excellent writing. I myself spent three weeks with my mother in galway while she recieived radiotherapy and came to know some of the men and women on”the toughest journey” I would like to think that this article will go some way to make a change in their situation but the cynic in me prevails.Just this friday on returning to Kilty from an appointment with my mother I encountered a “cavalcade of councillors one in chain of office along with the Minister of Finance on a “Jolly” So they certainly know how to waste money,

  96. Thomas Ball Says:

    will donate eamonn and hopefully more similar pieces from this guy in irish times,a great read

  97. john o donovan Says:

    Such a sad situation for them lovely people from the Nth West.How unfair to have 4 centres in Dublin when 2 would suffice Mr Reilly should hang his head in shame. I am lucky to be living in Tuam to attend for treatment for prostate cancer in Galway…. Total disgrace Mr Reilly
    Beautiful and sad your piece Owen and Eammon deserves so much praise for his total dedication to fellow cancer patients.Upset me so much to come across this article tonight.Hope HSE heads and
    Reilly know and now realise that Donegal cancer patients are entitled to and have a right to vital treatment in their Co as
    rest of Ireland..Wish all them lovely people full recovery..Will pray for ye all..Donegal my favourite Co..done lots of work there for many years. John

  98. Fiona McGonigle Says:

    I am from Derry, but live in England, near Cambridge. I am shocked and appalled to read this article, I would never believe that the Government can get a way with this disgraceful behaviour. I a Irish and proud to be… but this is shameful from Irish people. Sort it out Irish Government and also Irish Cancer Charities… They should be ashamed not to help. They are happy to take the funding money raised, give it back to Donegal, they are the ones who deserve it. People work hard for their money and when they fund-raise they are making a difference. Let’s see what happens as a result of this article. Massive well done Eoin and brilliant work from Eamon and Team. Sending love and Best Wishes to all who have suffered and are going through treatment. xxx

  99. Ciaran Kennedy Says:

    What a moving and well wrote article.
    I spoke to Eamonn yesterday about a cycle my friends and I are doing from Mizen Head to Malin Head in May. I rang Eamonn to ask if he would allow us to raise funds to help his charity and he agreed, We are looking forward to doing our cycle and hopefully we can raise some well needed funds for this great cause..

  100. John Says:

    Hi Eoin,

    We’ve nominated the bus for an internal grant for worthy causes for a value of €5,000.

    People can vote for the nomination here: http://woobox.com/r3bvwy/vote/for/3873396

    Make sure that you hit the VOTE button on the top left! A Facebook account is required for this.


  101. Sarah Conaghan Says:

    I have voted and I will remember this article the next time there is an election.

  102. Nigel Hegarty Fundraising Says:

    [...] for those needing to travel for treatment from the county.  You can read more about the service HERE and can donate to help support them HERE. The picture above shows Alma O’Donnell and Margaret [...]

  103. Liam O'Donnell Says:

    A very honest and accurate description of the circumstances being experienced by cancer sufferers in the North-west and what they must go through in order to get treatment for their conditions. A year on and still no change, no Altnagelvin, nothing but another winter of travel extremely early in dark mornings on sometimes dangerous roads. Ask someone in Fanad, Malin or Dungloe if taking 2 hours off this journey, one way, would be a help, and that still means a trip to Sligo. Surely there must be someone in authority who realises this is just not acceptable in a so called “First World” country.

  104. ann flynn Says:

    Why is there no treatment in sligo really in 2014 its a disgrace 3 centers in Dublin is enough Do the dubs pay more tax than the rest of the country since all the best hospitals services are up there i dont think so oh it makes my blood boil to think sick people are treated in this way I wonder if the people in Dublin had to travel to Cork or from Galway to Donegal would that be accepted ,and like all the public hospital its impossible to get parking.One would assume with all the moneys they make from the car parks they would build multi storey car parks that would accomdate all.We really need to start ralling together as a nation nd let our so called leaders know we are sick of them nd we want decent people running our country and treating all Countys equal

  105. Bernie Deeney Says:

    Its high time that cancer sufferers in the NW were treated with a bit of dignity. Fair play to Eamonn McDaid and indeed the writer of this article. Support their fundraising efforts, you never know when you might need this great service.

  106. Theresa Harkin Says:

    I remember the first cold frosty morning in Letterkenny,when I boarded this bus,I was terrified,didn’t know what to expect,It was a long lonely journey,Had Radiotherapy in Galway for a month, Donegal is a forgotten County,if we don’t trave we will die,Thank you so much for this wonderful service,Bless you

  107. Bridget Dolan Says:

    What a brilliant story showing bravery and humanity in the face of this government’s inhumanity. I’ve done this journey with a relative, and it’s a SIN that people in the depths of cancer treatment have to go through this. God bless you Eamonn McDevitt for the effort and heart you give in driving all that way for no payment. Why isn’t there a cancer treatment centre in the Northwest?

Leave a Comment