The Mulhall family said they felt that they had no option but to introduce their mother, Marilyn, to Jan O’Sullivan in the hope that the minister will intervene and sanction the grant which would allow them to continue caring for Marilyn at home.
Ms O’Sullivan said the issues faced by families such as the Mulhalls must be addressed. “My department is expecting submissions on priority cases in the near future,” she said.
“I’m not supposed to comment on individual cases, but it looks as if this will be one of the cases that will be prioritised.”
A decision on releasing funding will be made within a matter of weeks, it is hoped.
Marilyn, aged 62, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago.
The family applied to Cork City Council in 2011 for a grant to build a small ground-floor extension with a bedroom and wash facilities. It is estimated the work could cost between €50,000 and €80,000.
However, lack of funding has resulted in a backlog of such cases in local authorities, with some applicants waiting up to six years for a decision on funding.
Marilyn’s condition is advancing rapidly, she no longer answers to “mum”, and only recognises certain family members.
The family fear she will die before a funding decision is made on their case.
Marilyn looked frail as her daughter, Jennifer, and her sister, Claire, begged Ms O’Sullivan to help them.
“Hopefully she will see sit up and pay attention to the needs of the people of Cork City,” Jennifer said. “Over six years? It’s long enough to wait. It’s a joke.”
Claire said it is heartbreaking to watch her sister deteriorate.
“All we want is a wet room and a bedroom downstairs,” she said. “We’re not asking for millions. We’re asking for a few thousand euro. We are looking for dignity for Marilyn.”
The Mahon-based family, who are being supported by Sinn Féin councillor Chris O’Leary, insisted it was their idea to confront the minister.
“We made this decision. Something has to be done, not just for Marilyn, but for the other people who have the same problems. We want to keep her at home,” Claire said.
“There isn’t a hope in hell we’re putting her in a home. This has to be rectified and rectified soon.
“We’ll wait and see if this is resolved, and if it’s not, we’ll do it again, and again and again. I don’t care what it takes. We will be there to fight this all the way.”
Mr O’Leary praised the family’s courage and said he hopes the minister will resolve the issue.
“€50,000 would remedy this situation. And there are 51 other families in Cork in a similar situation,” he said.
“The minister announced money in last October’s budget for adaptations, but no money has come in to the council for that work. Show us the money. It’s that simple. This is an emergency.”
Labour councillor Michael O’Connell criticised Mr O’Leary for “dragging” the family and their seriously ill mother to Knocknaheeny to doorstep the minister.
“There was an opportunity for Cllr O’Leary to bring the family in to meet the minister in the Lord Mayor’s office earlier for a private meeting,” he said. “The woman is very ill. There was no need for this. This family deserved better.”
Mr O’Leary said the family has been in a vacuum for years waiting for a decision.
“These people are desperate and tough cookie if it’s upset a number of councillors,” he said.
“The reality here is that this a life-and-death situation. I’m elected to represent the people. I hear what they are saying and I voice that concern. And if they [other councillors] are worried about that, they need to get out of politics.”