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Anger at delay in purchase of site for All Ireland Autism Centre of Excellence

29 June, 2004

Sinn Fein Education Spokesperson, Newry Armagh MLA Davy Hyland has said that it is unacceptable that more than two years after agreement on the All Ireland Centre of Excellence for Children with Autism in Middletown, County Armagh that the site in the former St Joseph's Adolescent Centre has still not been purchased.

Mr Hyland said:

"It is an absolute disgrace that well over two years after agreement on the All Ireland Autism Centre of Excellence between Martin McGuinness and the then 26 county Education Minster Michael Woods was reached that the site has still not been purchased. It also disappointing that there have yet to be any final decisions on the level of staffing and specialist inputs required. This pushes the whole project further down the line.

"This cutting edge facility will be of huge benefit to children and young people from right across this island when it becomes fully operational. Yet it appears that through a combination of either foot dragging or incompetence on the part of either the Irish government, British direct rule Ministers or both that people are being denied this facility.

"The Centre of Excellence will provide not only a learning support service; an educational assessment service but also act as a training and advisory service and centre for autism research, dissemination and information service.

"This delay is unacceptable. I will be meeting NIO Education Minister this week to raise in the strongest terms my serious concern at this delay and demanding a full explanation. Autism and providing educational support for children and young people with special needs should be among the top priorities with the both the 26 County and NIO direct rule administrations but it seems that both have failed to deliver for this section of our society." ENDS

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