Funding difficulties with Irish Deaf Society ‘unacceptable’, says McGrath

Society had warned it will have to close unless the State grants €300,000 in funding

Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian  McGrath told an Oireachtas committee he too was ‘very upset’ about  the situation regarding finances for the Irish Deaf Society. File photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath told an Oireachtas committee he too was ‘very upset’ about the situation regarding finances for the Irish Deaf Society. File photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath has said funding difficulties that have arisen at the Irish Deaf Society are “unacceptable to him”.

The Independent TD told the Justice committee on Wednesday morning he is aware of the financial difficulties and concerns regarding the organisation’s future sustainability but hopes to have the matter resolved this week.

The Irish Deaf Society warned earlier this month that it will have to close unless the State grants €300,000 in funding. The organisation said it had failed to get adequate State funding and is surviving on a series of “lucky instances of bequests which have kept us on the road”.

The issue has been raised at Cabinet meetings by Mr McGrath recently who requested the Minister for Finance Donohoe to make the required money available, with one source saying the Independent TD was “going ballistic”.

At the Oireachtas committee, Independent TD Mick Wallace asked Mr McGrath “why are things allowed to get to this point” and that he was contacted by people from the IDS who were “pretty upset about the approach of the Government”.

Mr McGrath said he too was “very upset” with the situation and that there was “a few differences of opinion in recent weeks over it” among State bodies.

“As far as I was concerned, they [IDS] had a problem last year and we came in and gave them bridge funding of €195,000 and the plan was that would keep them sorted in 2018 and then we would have a proper plan for 2019,” he told the committee.

“I told people to get on with it, it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to happen and then it exploded as you know yourself.

“It’s unacceptable for me the way that happened and I’ve made it twice at two Government meetings, I made that very exact same point, why did we have to come to that stage . . . different sections [of State organisations] have to get their act together and we’ll decide on core funding and that is being done over the next couple of days.”

Mr McGrath said he was “particularly annoyed” as the IDS had been very supportive with the Irish Sign Language Bill previously.

Disability Bill

The justice committee was examining the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016, which will amend various pieces of legislation to support Ireland’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The bill has passed through committee stage with a number of amendments.

Mr McGrath noted the passage of the bill has been slow due to many of the issues addressed being “highly complex and intertwined with other pieces of legislation”. He also said there needs to be more people with disabilities in local and national politics.

“We need more people with disabilities involved directly to advocate on their particular issues as well, and I support that,” he said.

An amendment, tabled by Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, to ensure local authorities provide for polling stations that are accessible to wheelchair users, was passed by the committee.

Mr Ó Laoghaire said during the 2016 general election there were polling stations in counties Galway, Kerry, Carlow, Kilkenny and Dublin which did not have suitable access for wheelchair users.

“It is the case that there are many polling stations that aren’t accessible to all of the public, this isn’t the kind of public service you can get elsewhere, your polling station is your polling station,” he said. “If you can’t get access to it there is no other polling station that you can go to and this is not uncommon unfortunately.”