A STRABANE cancer patient who passed away months after having her benefits cut because she was “fit to work” has been remembered at a rally in Derry.
Cecilia Burns hit the headlines in March this year after her Employment Support Allowance was slashed, even though she was still receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer.
The 51-year-old died last Monday and tributes were paid to her at a protest against benefits cuts just hours after her funeral on Thursday.
The rally was held beneath the Paralympic outdoor screen in the city centre in protest against the sponsorship of the games by Atos, the body that carries out benefits assessments.
Speaker Eamonn McCann described the assessments as a “joke” and said Mrs Burns’ case highlighted how flawed the current system is.
“It is grotesque that Atos is sponsoring the Paralympics at the same time as it is being used by the Government to cut disability benefits.
“Cecilia Burns from Strabane died this week after being told she was fit for work and the same thing happened to a woman in Creggan whose family could see that she was not going to be alive at Christmas time and they were right.
“Everyone knows it is the most vulnerable that are being hit hard by these cuts.
“Atos didn’t make up these cuts but they are doing the dirty work of the Government and asking them politely is not going to make them change,” Mr McCann said.
Sinn Féin MLA Michaela Boyle said Mrs Burns had become the face of the anti-benefit cuts campaign.
“Her case had become a template, an example of what is wrong with the system and I had often used her as an example when outlining my concerns.
“Cecilia had been to the fore in this fight against the cuts and I think she made a real difference,” Mrs Boyle said.