A HUMAN river of despair flowed through Dublin yesterday, only to crash into a wall of indifference at the gates of Dáil Eireann.
Thousands gathered to speak for the silent and most vulnerable in society, driven on by a burning anger that they were paying the price for the orgy of financial mismanagement that has left the Government scrambling to snatch money back from the disabled.
More than 2,000 people, many in wheelchairs, massed at Leinster House to protest the threat to respite services, but their pleas for help did not seem to penetrate the thick grey walls and reach the Dáil chamber within.
Brian Cowen appeared oblivious to the despair, dryly insisting that no decisions had yet been taken to cut respite care – ignoring outraged interjections by opposition TDs that such cruel measures had already been imposed in Limerick, parts of Dublin and the west.
The Taoiseach mumbled something about the need to find “efficiencies” in other areas, without even a nod of apology to the families who had been so terrified by the threat of losing the meagre help they received that those who could bring the loved ones they care for with them had been forced to take to the streets to voice their fears.
Mr Cowen seemed more content to score political points from the past, highlighting failings of the last Rainbow government, but as Fine Gael’s Bernard Allen shouted back: “That was a different millennium.”
The Real World and Planet Dáil rarely looked so distant as Mr Cowen insisted there was no problem, while Fine Gael’s Enda Kenny asked why thousands of people had mobilised to protest if that was the case, and Labour’s Eamon Gilmore wondered if the Taoiseach believed the people outside the gates had dreamed the deterioration to their already demand- laden lives caused by the HSE’s clumsy hatchet job.
Mr Cowen boasted that the disability help budget had increased four-fold under Fianna Fáil, but even four times very little still does not amount to that much.
Especially when the money is now being clawed back for the sake of a few million euro. Especially when that happens at the same time the Government thinks nothing of pumping €22 billion and counting into the black hole zombie bank of Anglo Irish and the golden circle.
The difference in treatment meted out to those protesting on the pavement and the bailed-out penthouse casino cowboys was not lost on the demonstrators.
Mr Kenny noted that while the disabled were threatened with severe cuts, the Government entertainment bill had rocketed 66% to €1.2m.
The tide of anger merely lapped at Leinster House this time, if such blatant injustice continues it could well smash through it in future.
Oh yeah, the Government did make a decision yesterday, it ruled the Oireachtas would take an 11-week summer vacation – while the families of the disabled are left battling for a much needed break of just one night a month.
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