Father expresses anger at Conlon’s pay hike

A sick father whose wife is recovering from cancer and whose two children are autistic has expressed outrage at a pay rise for a special adviser, which he wrote to Enda Kenny about but got no reply.

The Taoiseach yesterday conceded that it was unacceptable that the near 100 individuals who wrote to him received no replies to their complaints over the pay rise.

Impassioned pleas from a terminally ill cancer patient, hungry families, and pensioners were among the letters sent to Mr Kenny over the issue, as revealed by the Irish Examiner this week.

Complainants had asked why Mr Kenny intervened to secure a €35,000 pay rise for special adviser Ciaran Conlon, which resulted in his salary being bumped up to €127,000.

Father-of-four Joe Rossa was among the letter writers expressing “utter disgust” over the decision, which “broke the rules” and breached a pay cap for advisers.

He wrote to Mr Kenny about two of his sons who have autism and the fact he has Parkinson’s disease. He told Mr Kenny that a special needs assistant for his son, Oisín, would cost less than the €35,000 pay rise. He never got a reply or acknowledgment letter.

Speaking yesterday, the Kildare family outlined how their resources for their sons were being cut and why they had written the letter. Mr Rossa’s wife, Audrey, is also recovering from breast cancer.

“I got so angry when I heard of the pay increase that I wrote it. He [Mr Kenny] threw out all the rules and regulations and just decided to give this guy €35,000. We put a party [Fianna Fáil] out of business to put him where he is. I got the calculator out and couldn’t believe it.”

The Rossas are facing cuts to their school transport and domiciliary care allowances, funds that help get their children to school and care for them.

“We live on €500 a week and on €92,000 a year he [Mr Conlon] would have been getting €1,769 a week. We’re driving 60 miles a day to keep Oisín in school, that’s 400 miles a week. And we fill up the tank twice, so that’s €130 just for that.

“We need Oisín in that school, he’s attached to the autism spectrum disorder unit.

“He has high functioning autism, is subject to mood swings, gets very hyper and is on medication to keep him calm.”

Oisín’s one-on-one classes, to help him keep up his studies, have been reduced from five hours a week to two and a half, Mr Rossa said.

One of their older sons also has Asperger’s syndrome.

One letter received by Mr Kenny was from cancer sufferer and father-of-three Yves Chavanne, 61, who said health cutbacks had led to him not receiving care.

Mr Kenny yesterday pledged to respond to the former Fás worker, who is in a hospice.

“I would expect that anybody who writes to a public representative deserves a reply. Obviously the health area is one that we are very concerned about across the board... I’ll find out why the man didn’t receive a response and I’ll respond to him myself personally.”

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