Disability cuts - No defence on any grounds

NOT a day passes without headline news of the worst kind concerning the plight of the weakest and most vulnerable people in our benighted society, brought to its knees by the excesses of greedy developers, the reckless lending of irresponsible bankers and the wrong-headed policies of this Government.

Today is no exception. The fact that people with intellectual disabilities have been driven to the point of marching in protest on Leinster House today over funding cuts is a stark reminder of the problems confronting service providers in an area where the state is persistently failing to deliver. Rightly or wrongly, the popular perception is that nobody in power gives a damn.

The poignant letter from wheelchair-using 22-year-old Orla Noone says more about the plight of those with disability in a single paragraph than a mountain of newsprint could convey.

Addressing Health Minister Mary Harney, she writes: “I am asking you and my service providers, sit down and use the gifts that God gave you to find a solution to my problem, because you see I can’t do this for you as my brain doesn’t work very well. I hope you take the time to read this and would welcome a reply, because again no one sees me as an individual that requires a response to the questions that I ask.”

Of course politicians and officials care. But judging by the disgruntled rumblings emanating from the Fianna Fáil household over the stag hunting and dog breeding bills, it is abundantly clear that what TDs really care about are their own backyards and their Dáil seats. The political gravy train of perks, Mercs, unvouched expenses and fat pensions have created a milieu in which public service has been superseded by private gain. Orla Noone is the face of reality in this country today. She has every right to feel abandoned and forgotten as she joins the protestors converging on Dáil Éireann.

At a time when hapless taxpayers are having to pour billions of euro into the black hole of the financial system, with little prospect of ever getting their money back, it is unacceptable that what meagre state funding is being doled out to more than 60 service providers operating at the coal face of disability work should be cut back by the HSE.

This newspaper makes no apology for reiterating questions Government can no longer ignore. How can conditions in many of our psychiatric hospitals be so appalling as to be described as inhumane by an official body? How can overcrowding and lack of therapeutic services and treatment for people with intellectual disabilities be justified? The blunt answer is that this third- world scenario cannot be defended on any grounds.

It is a damning indictment of the heartless policies of a tottering Government that the families and carers of people with Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities feel they have to take to the streets to make their voices heard. It is indeed a sad reflection on the ethos of modern Ireland that fiscal rectitude has replaced the sense of decency and altruism that should be our guiding principle and moral compass.


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