Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has expressed his support and that of his party for groups representing people with disabilities who will protest tomorrow (Tuesday 28 January) at the Taoiseach's launch of the European Year of People with Disabilities.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said the protest was "inevitable" given the cut in the budget for services for people with intellectual disabilities in particular. He said the cut from €38 million in 2003 to €13.3 million in 2004 means that existing services cannot be maintained. He said:
"One of the most neglected groups of people in this country for decades have been people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Progress has been made and acknowledged in recent years but the savage cut in the Budget allocated to the health boards for mentally handicapped services in 2004 - from €38 million to €13.3 million - is a total disgrace.
"This cut has been described as disastrous by the Federation of Voluntary Bodies and by the National Association of the Mentally Handicapped of Ireland as bringing us back to the mid-1990s. The caring agencies and voluntary bodies cannot maintain existing services let alone proceed with badly needed new developments. It will mean longer waiting lists for day care, respite care and long-term residential care.
"The scandal of nearly 500 people with intellectual disabilities detained inappropriately in psychiatric institutions is set to continue.
"These are very vulnerable people. Carers of the mentally handicapped are mostly themselves elderly people trying to cope and living with the worry of what will become of their children when they die. The Government should make an immediate commitment to reverse this callous cut. Otherwise its endorsement of European Year of People with Disabilities will ring hollow." ENDS