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Sinn Féin condemns Fianna Fáil brass neck on disability motion

4 December, 2012 - by Pádraig Mac Lochlainn


Speaking during a Fianna Fáil motion on disability funding and services, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn called the motion “yet another example of that party’s unashamed brass neck.”

The Donegal North-East TD said;

“With this motion, Fianna Fail are attempting to reinvent themselves as advocates for those with disabilities but when you tease out the text, it actually says very little, aside from their stunning realisation that it is, and I quote, ‘unfair and unjust to cut services for people with disabilities’. If they had any shame at all they would have included a line apologising for the harm they inflicted upon people with disabilities and their families down through the years.

“When Fianna Fáil were in government they cut the Disability Allowance, the Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit, and the Blind Person’s Allowance not once but twice. Of course, the removal of the Christmas double payments also heavily impacted on the disabled and their families and carers. All of this meant that Fianna Fáil cut the income of disabled people and their carers by 10% over two budgets.

“We believe there must be a threshold of decency when it comes to protecting funding for those with disabilities. The Government must halt reductions in the basic standard of living of people with disabilities requiring welfare supports. Funding must be guaranteed to the services needed by people with disabilities. Cutting the services required by people with disabilities not only undermines their lives, it also leads to a growing public expenditure in terms of hospital stays and expensive care costs.

“Furthermore it is a matter of urgency that the government publish an ambitious Implementation Plan for the National Disability Strategy in keeping with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, where people have dignity, individual autonomy and full and effective participation in Irish society.”

ENDS

Note to Editors:
Speech as follows [check against delivery]

PMB on Disability

Tuesday 4 December 2012

You have to hand it to Fianna Fáil; while I welcome this motion on disability rights and funding of services, it is yet another example of that party’s unashamed ‘brass neckery.’

With this motion, they are of course attempting to reinvent themselves as advocates for those with disabilities but when you tease out the text, it actually says very little, aside from their stunning realisation that it is, and I quote, “unfair and unjust to cut services for people with disabilities.”

If they had any shame at all they would have included a line apologising for the harm they inflicted upon people with disabilities and their families down through the years.

Just a few years back, when Fianna Fáil were in government they cut the Disability Allowance, the Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit, and the Blind Person’s Allowance not once but twice.
Of course, the removal of the Christmas double payments also heavily impacted on the disabled and their families and carers.
All of this meant that Fianna Fáil cut the income of disabled people and their carers by 10% over two budgets.

A brass neck indeed.

No wonder, Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on Social Protection and Minister in that Government, Deputy Willie O’Dea was heckled and booed by disability rights campaigners who were protesting outside the Dáil just a few weeks back.

That Fianna Fáil government also cruelly slashed funding to voluntary organisations working with the disabled as well as front line services to the disabled across the state.
We witnessed savage cuts to the number of Special Needs Assistants resulting in children with disabilities staying outside of mainstream schools.

Wasn’t it their own Fianna Fáil Minister for Education Batt O’Keefe who told primary school teachers that resource teachers for children with learning disabilities would be withdrawn if they had less than 9 children in the school.

That was back in 2009, and of course the then Fine Gael Education Spokesperson Deputy Brian Hayes issued a statement calling this an “attack” on children with learning disabilities.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch was the then Labour Party spokesperson on disability and called for services for children with intellectual disabilities to be protected.

It is remarkable how Fine Gael and Labour have changed their view on all of this now in their alliance for austerity.

This motion “recognises” that there are over 600,000 people with disabilities in the state, “recognises” their concern regarding cuts to services.

It merely "notes” the pledges in the programme for government and calls on the Government to provide the appropriate funding and services to honour “all” commitments to people with disabilities.

It’s not unreasonable to ask what Fianna Fail mean by “all” in this motion.

Does that include their own commitments to people with disabilities that they themselves failed to uphold in spectacular fashion?

We as members of this house must ensure that a “threshold of decency” on disability supports is developed.

There must be a political consensus that people with disabilities will have their dignity and rights maintained and their families will not be abandoned as a result of on-going cutbacks.

In recent times we have seen images of citizens with profound disabilities, who protested outside Leinster House at Minister Reilly’s cuts, and it struck a powerful chord with the Irish people.

The courage and dignity of those who braved the elements to make their stand shone a light on the reality that despite the promises of both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste in the final pre-election leaders’ debate last year, their government has proceeded to enforce cut after cut on those with disabilities in this state and their families and carers.

Their broken promises on disabilities are the cruellest of all. If this government took a Kango hammer and tore up our roads, there would be uproar but that is exactly what they have been doing to support services for people with disabilities

Nine leading disability organisations in Ireland spoke out on this scandal and yet the government have still done nothing. And we should make no mistake about this – given Fianna Fail’s records in this area, they wouldn’t be acting any differently if they were in government.

The disability organisations have outlined a vision for people with disabilities in Ireland and called on the government to take urgent action on three key areas:

1: Halt reductions in the basic standard of living of people with disabilities requiring welfare supports.

People with disabilities are most likely to experience real poverty because on top of the recent cuts in benefit levels and new charges, they also have to continue to pay for extras required due to their disability. They are amongst some of the most vulnerable groups that will lay awake tonight in fear at what fresh hell tomorrow’s budget is going to bring.

2: Funding must be guaranteed to the services needed by people with disabilities. Cutting the services required by people with disabilities not only undermines their lives, it also leads to a growing public expenditure in terms of hospital stays and expensive care costs.
It does not make economic, let alone ethical, sense to cut their services.
3: It is a matter of urgency that the Government publish an ambitious Implementation Plan for the National Disability Strategy in keeping with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, where people have dignity, individual autonomy and full and effective participation in Irish society.
People’s faith in Ireland’s eventual recovery depends not just on economic measures. Social protection for all people through this long, stressful period needs to be central to the Government‘s recovery plans. Government actions must address social inclusion / cohesion.

Recent Government cuts heighten these concerns in the run up to the Budget. Sinn Féin fully endorses their call and we call on the government to take up this challenge and honour their promises to our most vulnerable citizens.

Last year, the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton announced proposals to stop disability payments to new claimants between 16 and 18 years old, and then this was halted after people took to the streets.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan let the Minister for Social Protection take the fall famously describing how they would “revisit” this.

We must now wait and see what will be “revisited” in the coming months.

As far as this motion is concerned, I welcome Fianna Fail’s pauline conversion to the fight for disability rights. I think we can all legitimately question the motivations behind it but we support the right to full equality for people with disabilities.

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