Minister amends law on disability allowance after learning of PhD student’s case

Measure to be named after Catherine Gallagher, who raised issue in Irish Times

New regulations to allow students with disabilities to continue claiming State supports while studying for a PhD have been signed into law.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphrey has formally signed regulations designed to ensure that scholarship awards for PhD students are excluded from the means test for disability allowance.

The Minister has called the measure "Catherine's law" as she made the decision following direct engagement with DCU PhD student Catherine Gallagher.

Ms Gallagher (23), a journalism graduate from DCU who came first in her MA class, was told she would lose her bursary if she availed of a €16,000 research grant to study Irish media responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.


She has a condition known as congenital scoliosis alongside a non-progressive muscular disorder and arthrogryposis (an abnormality of the joints) which limits her movements.

Writing in The Irish Times last week, Ms Gallagher stated: "I found out that if I were to accept the scholarship on its original terms I would lose all of my disability allowance and secondary supports associated with that.

"I was devastated. The shock made me feel weak at the knees. I immediately sought a review from the deciding officer at the Department of Social Protection. The reply said the decision was unchanged. The scholarship grant would be viewed as means if I were to accept it. I would lose everything that helps me to stay afloat and survive."

Following the article, Ms Gallagher's case came to the attention of Ms Humphreys who said it " demonstrated to me that there was a clear unfairness in the system, which I have now removed through the signing of these regulations".

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times