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Irish Government cut to Autism Centre should be reversed – Ó Caoláin

19 May, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health & Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has demanded that the Fianna Fáil/Green Government Education Minister, Batt O’Keeffe, heed the call of his Six-County counterpart, Education Minister Caitríona Ruane, who has urged the reversal of the Irish Government cut to promised funding for the All-Ireland Centre of Excellence for Autism at Middletown, Co. Armagh.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"I welcome the call of Six-County Education Minister Caitríona Ruane for the reversal of the disgraceful Fianna Fáil/Green Government cut to its share of the funding for the development Middletown Centre of Excellence for Autism.

"On 1 May I revealed that the Minister for Education and Science Batt O’Keeffe had written to the Minister for Education in the Six Counties, Caitríona Ruane, to state that the Irish government is cutting promised funding for the All-Ireland Centre of Excellence for Autism at Middletown, Co. Armagh.

"Minister O’Keeffe’s Department and the Department of Health & Children will not now be providing the promised funding required to expand the Middletown Centre as had been intended this year.

"In January of this year I was a member of a cross-party Oireachtas delegation which visited Middletown and saw the excellent work being done by the Centre. I proposed that visit. The Centre itself was initiated by Martin McGuinness during his term as Education Minister in the Executive and from the beginning I have pressed for its development which finally came to fruition.

"The Centre, as acknowledged by Minister O’Keeffe, is working for the development and harmonisation of education and associated services for children and young people throughout Ireland with autistic spectrum disorder. It delivers training programmes and commissions research. The Centre is dedicated to improving and enriching the educational opportunities of children and young people with autism.

"While Minister O’Keeffe states that the Irish Government is not withdrawing all funding from Middletown, this is effectively a cut as the funding necessary for expansion is not now to be allocated.

"In Dáil Questions and in letters to the Minister I have urged Batt O’Keeffe not to proceed with this cut.

"I will continue to press this issue on behalf of children with autism and their families who need and deserve better than this mean-spirited cut." ENDS

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