'IT'S ABOUT RIGHTS' Geraldine Hastings and her daughter, Louise. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
Pressure mounts on Taoiseach
Thousands of people with disabilities and their families marched on Dáil Éireann last week ahead of the upcoming Budget. Here, Westport woman Geraldine Hastings makes an impassioned plea to Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Due to previous cutbacks my daughter Louise has only four hours per day at our wonderful local Training Centre, Carrowbeg Enterprises, Westport.
You went into office on the strength of our votes, Enda, promising us the sun, moon and stars. We already have our star, Louise, but we are still waiting on the sun and the moon as promised. Your party promised to protect people with disabilities and their family carers. By creating cuts, you are actually suggesting that we are a financial burden on the State and the taxpayer.
I want to outline how people with disabilities encourage employment in Ireland and are therefore very productive on the employment front. I am speaking of Mayo alone, not to mention all of Ireland. Because of the health and dependency needs of our loved ones, we help to create a wide range of employment, including doctors and nurses, social workers and psychologists, pharmacists and support staff, teachers and SNAs, administrators and HSE staff.
So many of the above professional people would be on the next flight to Australia if we did not make such a large contribution to their employment. I sincerely wish that Louise was in good health and that I could buy her a ticket to Australia. Sadly that will never happen.
Enda, people with disabilities have constitutional and human rights. This month, Ireland was elected as one of the 18 member-states to serve a three-year term on the [UN] Human Rights Council. This is an extra reason for our rights to be respected. Our loved ones need families and politicians to be their voice and protect their rights. It’s all about rights, not charity.
Remember, people with disabilities have a right to vote. So please prove to all these wonderful people in this future budget why they, their families, friends, neighbours and support groups should vote for your party in the next General Election.
We, as family carers, love taking care of our sons and daughters. Home carers save the State €70,000 a year per disability by not asking for residential care. We can do this as long as our age and health permits. We carers give 24/7 care with love and attention. Despite round-the-clock care, we are not allowed build up stamps or seek unemployment benefit or pension top-ups. Luckily, we love what we do.
Most people with disabilities shop locally. They contribute to local services like shops, cafés, hotels, leisure centres, banks and post offices. Here in Westport, they really enjoy their Thursday outings to the Country Market. As families, we contribute to local employment and enterprise. Our small Disability and Carer Allowances contribute a great return and therefore should be respected.
Recent statistics show that 10 per cent of the Irish population now lives in poverty. They queue for food parcels and at soup-kitchens. Is it now time to stop punishing the lower and middle-income section of our society? Instead, Enda, why not introduce alternative cutbacks?
Let those highly paid banking executives who are responsible for ‘bank robbery’ pay back some of their €500,000-a-year pensions. Let the wealthy property developers who brought this country down, and still live lavish lifestyles, be punished. Let Child Allowance be means-tested so that those with high incomes are treated in a proportionate manner. Let the State stop paying teachers in private schools. Let the school lunch scheme be reviewed and only offered to really disadvantaged schools.
Let household charges be means-tested. Why should a pensioner or a carer that lives on my little street here in Westport pay the same charge as a family in a three-storey residence in Dublin 4?
Let the privileges of chauffeurs for senior politicians be reviewed. If a person with a disability can drive, why can’t you?
People with disabilities encounter daily challenges without complaint. They are real Olympians and deserve their rights to be honoured.
Enda, my daughter Louise has made fantastic progress due to the help and support she receives at the Carrowbeg Enterprises Centre and the other medical services she receives.
Like the thousands of other disabled people, please remember she is one of our special citizens.