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Groups Protest As Official Launches Year of People With Disabilities
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 30, 2003

DUBLIN, IRELAND--As Taoiseach Bertie Ahern launched the European Year of People with Disabilities Tuesday, a coalition of disability groups protested his government's lack of attention to people with developmental disabilities, according to several news sources in Ireland.

About 100 protesters from the National Association for Mentally Handicapped in Ireland, the National Parents and Siblings Alliance, the Irish Autism Alliance and members of the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies gathered in front of the Mansion House to confront Ahern on recent budget plans that call for a freeze in funding for community services.

The plan would mean that the waiting list for residential, employment, and respite services will continue to grow, even as Ireland closes institutions and moves people with developmental disabilities out of psychiatric hospitals.

Parents of young adults who will be leaving the school system this summer, have begun receiving letters from service providers explaining that there would be no residential services for them.

"As far as I can see there's a belief in Government that there is an acceptable level of misery for parents and disabled people," said Seamus Green of the Irish Autism Alliance.

Ahern did take the opportunity to announce that an additional 500,000 euros ($540,000 US) would be spent to help people with disabilities to get jobs.

Demonstrators said that the money would mean little, considering that there are an estimated 1,700 people needing full-time residential services, 861 needing day services, 1,014 families needing respite services and almost 500 people with no services.

Some accused Ahern of "gross hypocrisy", saying that his government appears to care little for people with these disabilities, while at the same time Dublin prepares to host the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games this June.

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