Kelly under pressure after support groups’ funds cut

Environment Minister Alan Kelly has been urged to make an "immediate statement" on how he intends to address the problems faced by 26 voluntary disability and health groups who have lost their state funding.

A spokesperson for Minister Kelly said yesterday that he intends to “examine the situation and see what can be done within existing resource”.

Mr Kelly will hold discussions on the issue with Junior Health Minister, Kathleen Lynch and “hopes to make a statement shortly” according to his spokesperson, who would not give any further details or a definitive timeline.

The loss of grants, which are administered through the Pobal community services scheme, meant that the Irish Deaf Society is being forced to close its advocacy service.

History was made in the Dáil yesterday when a sign language interpreter was in the chamber so a debate could be understood by deaf people in the visitors’ gallery.

The Neurological Alliance of Ireland, which represents 700,000 people with brain injuries or conditions, will also have to close its doors.

Consultant neurologist Orla Hardiman said she was “horrified” that the umbrella group was completely denied funding along with all 11 of its member organisations which had applied.

She also said it was completely unsatisfactory that the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has reacted to criticism the cuts by saying the agencies can appeal decisions.

“Many of the organisations rely entirely for their funding on this process and will run out of funding by December so if the appeals process drags on they will go under anyway,” she said.

The Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, said the appeals process is “no good” for organisations like the Irish Deaf Society.

“These groups don’t have the time or resources to go through a lengthy appeals process,” he said.

Mr Martin said he welcomed the news that Mr Kelly “appears to have bowed to pressure” and “ordered a review of the scheme”.

He said: “I am calling for an immediate statement from the Minister outlining what kind of review is taking place in order to give the groups affected some clarity.”

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