Taoiseach urged to intervene in health cuts row

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been asked to intervene to save 26 voluntary organisations in the health and disability sector after it emerged their funding was halted by former Environment Minister Phil Hogan without consulting his colleague with responsibility in the area.

The junior health minister with responsibility for disability and mental health, Kathleen Lynch, said she will raise the matter with the new environment minister, Alan Kelly, but that she could not promise anything.

“I was not involved in the decision on funding,” she said when asked by Independent TD Catherine Murphy if she was consulted on the cuts which will result in the Irish Deaf Society having to shut its doors.

Consultant neurologist Orla Hardiman said she was “horrified” that the Neurological Alliance of Ireland, which represents 700,000 people with brain injuries or conditions, will also have to close.

“They are now being shut out of Irish society, their voice is being silenced,” she said.

“In an unprecedented situation, the umbrella, which represents over 30 neurological charities, was completely denied funding along with all 11 of its member organisations which had applied.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said disability and health agencies previously made up half of the groups who received grants under the scheme administered by the Pobal community scheme.

“It has now, overnight, been changed to one in eight. So, clearly, Environment said: ‘somebody else should be funding these organisations’ and they cut, and they didn’t inform anyone else in Government about it,” he said.

Mr Martin called on the Taoiseach “from a humanitarian perspective to intervene and do what is right here” and “find one million euro to sort this mess out”.

During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, he said that if nothing is done, 26 organisations doing “invaluable work out there in the community” will be left “homeless and without any basic resources to keep going.”

Enda Kenny said a recent review of the scheme recommended that organisations should have to demonstrate the added value of the work they carried out.

He said a large number of applications sought the maximum level of funding available and, therefore, the number who were successful was lower than previously.

Of 157 applications for an €8m fund, some 55 were granted funding, including Barnardos and the Children’s Rights Alliance, he said, adding that an appeals process is available.

Mr Martin said the grants were not announced before the local elections in May because “there would be hell to pay”.

The Taoiseach told the Fianna Fáil leader: “Your basic philosophy is to have enough money to give to everybody. It’s the same philosophy that applied across the Health Board for years when you forked out money that you didn’t have.”

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