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Irish autism campaigners take campaign to European Parliament

23 June, 2005

Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald is today hosting a delegation of autism campaigners from across Ireland to the European Parliament. Ms McDonald said that it was clear that 'Families who are caring for autistic children are crying out for support and adequate facilities'.

A total of twenty four people representing ten autism NGO's have traveled to Brussels at the invitation of Ms McDonald. Representatives from groups such as the North East Autism Support Group, Dochas, ICARE, PEAT (Parents Education as Autism Therapists), Irish Society for Autism, Grá, Laois Offaly Families with Autism, Parents and Professional and Autism (PAPA), European Disability Forum and HOPE will be joined by Ms McDonald and party colleagues Bairbre de Brún MEP, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD and John O'Dowd MLA.

Speaking from Brussels Ms McDonald said:

"I want to welcome representatives from autism groups from throughout Ireland to the European Parliament. Families who are caring for autistic children are crying out for support and adequate facilities.

"Indeed, the lack of commitment to this issue is summed up by the proposed all-Ireland autism centre in Middletown, Co Armagh. Amidst much pomp and ceremony the centre was declared 'open' in September 2004 by then NIO minister, Barry Gardiner and Education Minister Noel Dempsey. Since then the centre has remained closed due to legal and financial difficulties.

"Today's series of meetings will offer campaigners and parents alike, the opportunity to meet with representatives from the European Commission and a meeting has been scheduled with the other Irish MEPs. The case of 14 year old Lewis O'Carolan has brought the issue of autism back into media focus and exposes the fact that this state has no adequate autistim-specific facilities." ENDS

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