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Student doing German-Irish commute wins disability funding after three-year campaign

Previously the HSE told Ms Cynk that it did not have the available budget to fund her support package if she moved to Ireland

Evelyne Cynk, from Bochum in Germany, says her right to freedom of movement as an EU citizen is being infringed upon, as neither the German or Irish state is willing to fund her personal assistance support if she moves to Cork to pursue her studies and a career as a writer

A student with cerebral palsy who has been commuting between Germany and Ireland due to a gap in disability supports has finally been granted funding by the HSE after three years of campaigning.

Evelyne Cynk (35) from Bochum in Germany was first accepted on to University College Cork’s (UCC) creative writing master’s programme in September 2021, but quickly learned that under German law, if she moved to Ireland she would no longer be entitled to her state funded 24-hour personal assistance (PA) support.

Previously the HSE told Ms Cynk that it did not have the available budget to fund her support package if she moved to Ireland.

Ms Cynk has spent the past three years campaigning to have her PA support transferred from Germany to Ireland, arguing that her right to free movement as an EU citizen is being infringed upon because of her disability.

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The latest European Disability Strategy, adopted in March 2021, specifically states that “persons with disabilities should enjoy all rights on an equal basis with others, notably when moving to another member state”.

For the last six months Ms Cynk has been commuting between Germany and Cork, a 14 hour journey each way, in order to be able to begin her studies while still remaining technically resident in Germany to retain her disability support.

Evelyne Cynk (35) from Bochum in Germany who had been commuting to UCC. Photo supplied to go with Ellen O'Regan story in June 2024
Evelyne Cynk had been commuting to UCC from Bochum, Germany

However she has now been informed that the HSE has secured funding for her 24-hour PA support, a landmark decision which she says is a “huge win for all people with disabilities”.

“I’m just so immensely grateful for all the Irish supporters and the HSE. Not only for giving me the chance to finally attend my course without the ordeal of commuting, but for treating me like a human being,” she said, in particular paying tribute to the efforts of Senator Tom Clonan, outgoing Green MEP Ciarán Cuffe, and barrister Cormac MacNamara.

“It’s been three years for me, but I hope that this is just the beginning for European rights matters, and that my case will open up a discourse when it comes to free movement for people with disabilities,” she said.

Senator Tom Clonan said disabled citizens “shouldn’t have to fight so hard, and expend so much precious energy, to secure what are fundamental human rights”.

“I’ve seen Evelyne’s strength, passion, joy and love for her art and education, and I’ve seen her cry tears of frustration at the obstacles placed in her way. Those moments were heartbreaking but Evelyne never gave up the fight,” he said, adding that she is an “artist and warrior”.

Ms Cynk is aiming to move to Ireland in mid-July, when the HSE will commence providing her disability supports. A letter from the HSE seen by The Irish Times confirms that the health service will be supporting her care from July 22nd.

She hopes to graduate from UCC next year, explore roles working in disability activism in Ireland, as well as secure a book deal for the first novel in her “Kaleidoscope” trilogy, a love story that centres around a woman protagonist with cerebral palsy.

The HSE was contacted for comment.

Ellen O'Regan

Ellen O’Regan

Ellen O’Regan is a former Irish Times journalist.