Protesters get written confirmation of reversal


Campaigners who stayed outside Government Buildings overnight in protest against the proposed cuts to disability services said this evening they were pleased with the written guarantee from Government that personal assistant hours will not be cut.

However they expressed concern no assurance had been given that cuts would not be sought in the future.

Leigh Gath, who is a Thalidomide survivor and member of the Leaders Alliance campaign group for people with disabilities, said they were seeking a meeting with Tony O'Brien in the next 14 days.

"We want assurance that our services will be protected and we’ve requested a meeting with Tony O’brien to put that to him. He has assured us that his door is always open," she said.

"Mr O'Brien agreed to work with us and let us advise him as stakeholders when policies to do with people with disabilities do arise and that's good news."

She said campaigners would be "more than prepared" to take to the streets again if cuts were revisited.

"I'd like to thank members of the public for their support. People are happier now, they’re not scared to death that they’ll be in an institution next week."

Ms Gath and other campaigners finally received written confirmation of the decision by Goverment to reverse more than €10 million in cuts affecting the disabled just after noon today. 

“They told us they were bringing the written confirmation out to us last night and they knew where we were and they did not bring it. We were here all night in the cold waiting for that letter,” said Ms Gath.

Michelle Gaynor, who lives independently with the aid of three personal assistants, said she felt she had no choice but to stay outside Government Buildings until she had written confirmation in her hand.

“Words are cheap. Until you have something in writing you don’t have anything. So many times we’ve been promised things and then been let down so that’s why a group of us decided to stay on this morning,” she said.

“Without my assistants I would end up in residential care. Without that I can do nothing. They’re literally my arms and legs. They drive my car and cook my meals so without that I’m a prisoner. Without them I can do nothing. They’re a vital aid to my life. The cuts make no economic sense.”

Ms Gath said Dr Reilly and Mr O’Brien told campaigners last night that all HSE managers had been given the direction not to proceed with the cuts to PA services.

“I’ve been told by someone working in the HSE that no such direction has been given as yet. Maybe it’s a lack of communication, it takes a while for information to filter down, or maybe we’re being led up the garden path again and if we are we’ll be here,” she said. “The Government has got the message. If you kick us, we’re going to bite back.”

John Roche said funding for disability services should not be touched at all.

“They’ve been chipping away at our area for the last three years. An area that should not be touched at all. There are other issues in Ireland which they are refusing to touch, they are scared to face up to reality. I’m not going to name a certain agreement but I think we need a new one. One that reflects the times we’re in and not one that hankers back to the Celtic Tiger and all the cushy numbers people had,” he said.

“We have to go back to the start. Everyone has to feel a bit of pain.”

Menawhile home help and home care workers from across Dublin will protest at Government Buildings on Merrion Street this evening at 6pm.

“That Fine Gael and the Labour Party thought it fine to target the vital home care services that many thousands of our most vulnerable of citizens depend upon shows where their interests lie,” said John Lyons, a member of the Home Care Community Action Group on Dublin’s northside