Joanne: Cut to respite care grant a betrayal

A girl who was born without limbs has told of her disappointment that Taoiseach Enda Kenny has failed to keep his promise to her not to take money from the disabled.

Joanne O’Riordan, 16, shot to public prominence just before the general election in February last year, when the then leader of the opposition assured her in person he would protect disability payments once in power.

However, Joanne, from Millstreet, Co Cork, said she now feels betrayed over the announcement in the budget to introduce a 19%, or €325, cut in the yearly respite care grant.

She said the move — which was copper-fastened yesterday when TDs and ministers voted in the Dáil to implement the cuts — will indirectly impact on disabled people and flies in the face of Mr Kenny’s original promise to protect the service.

Joanne, a student at Millstreet Community College, told RTÉ’s Today programme: “It’s still cutting the disabled people down.

“We’re studying French history at the moment and they did austerity well when they were in a recession, but they taxed all the high-earning people.

“They touched the middle-class a small bit, but they didn’t go as strong as Enda Kenny has.”

Joanne, who is one of just seven people in the world with total amelia syndrome, also said a €100,000 film about her life, No Limbs, No Limits, which is being made by her brother, Steven, should be completed in spring next year.

The inspirational teen is also hoping a call she famously made in a stirring UN address last April to technology leaders to make her a robot will be answered in the New Year.

Speaking of the difference the artificial companion, which she has christened ‘Robbie’, could make to her life, she said: “When I get older, I will be more interested in moving into my own house and I want to get something to open the doors or make me tea or coffee.”

Three robotics teams — from China, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the UN — along with Science Foundation Ireland, are involved in the ambitious project.

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