Sinn Féin allocates €5 million for state wide Walk-Peer project – Adams

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has revealed that the party’s alternative budget for 2019 “recognises the wonderful work of the Walk-Peer project in Louth. In Sinn Féin’s alternative budget for 2019 we propose rolling out the Walk-Peer experience across the state. We have allocated five million Euro to set-up a Walk-Peer programme of employment supports for young people with disabilities in every county.”

The Louth TD said: “Walk-Peer was one of 14 disability activation projects that were originally jointly funded by the Department of Social Protection and the European Social Fund. Its objective was to provide people with disabilities with the means to avail of progression, education and development opportunities within the world of work.

The programme ended three years ago. Since then, along with others, I have lobbied the government to sustain funding for the Louth project because of the exemplary work it does and the help it provides citizens with disabilities.

WALK Peer is a model programme which has dramatically changed the lives of young people with disabilities in my constituency. Scores of young people have availed of the programme, and very positive outcomes have been achieved by all who participated in it. WALK Peer has proven to be a very successful in ensuring that young people with disabilities are afforded equal access to employment, education and training.

Consequently, Sinn Féin now wants to roll the Walk-Peer experience out across the state. In our alternative budget for 2019 we have allocated five million Euro to set-up a Walk-Peer programme of employment supports for young people with disabilities in every county. In addition we will increase by 10% the Wage Subsidy Scheme which supports people with disabilities.”

Adams and Ó Murchú Attend Louth Respite Forum

Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams and Cllr Ruairí Ó Murchú have met with HSE management and families of those with intellectual disabilities to discuss the respite needs of families in County Louth.

The meeting of Louth Respite Forum, which took place on Friday 27th April in Ardee, is the latest in a series of engagements regarding the lack of adequate respite provision.

Following the meeting Gerry Adams said,

“Respite is essential for families caring for loved ones with intellectual disabilities.  These families love their children, that is absolutely without doubt.  They care for them diligently their whole lives, but everybody needs a break.

“In order for these parents to provide this intensive level of care into the future, the Government needs to support them through the provision of respite.  I have met with the Minister for Disability Finian McGrath on many occasions and raised the shocking gaps in provision of respite in Louth.

“I welcomed the Minister’s announcement in December 2017 that additional funding would be made available to the HSE in Louth and I am pleased to see the outworking of this with the recent opening of Bower House in Balbriggan which will provide respite for young adults.

“Although welcome we still have many citizens who are not able to access appropriate respite in Louth.  Older people with intellectual disabilities who live with their elderly parents are in desperate need of a proper respite service.  Dundalk Parents and Friends of the Intellectually Disabled have long made the case for their loved ones who are being treated shamefully at the moment.

“I also welcome the news that the HSE will address this with a new premises in Dundalk which will be operative in the Autumn and I look forward to the delivery of this service.

“I also pressed the HSE on the issue of emergency respite, the lack of which led to the complete cessation of summer respite in 2016.  I received confirmation that the HSE are looking at realistic options in the event of an emergency which would not affect the respite of other citizens.

Councillor Ó Murchú added,

“Louth Respite Forum is a very useful platform for engagement between citizens, politicians and service providers.  There is no doubt that there are gaps in provision in Louth, however this forum enables families to hold politicians to account and to put their queries directly to the HSE.”

Drogheda SF Spend their Discretionary Money on Disability

Sinn Féin Drogheda Councillors, Kenneth Flood, Joanna Byrne and David Saurin have welcomed the completion of a comprehensive list of disability access improvements in Drogheda that they paid to be done through their discretionary fund allocation.

Cllr Kenneth Flood explained “We met with Louth County Council Officials to decide, in collaboration, where the funding would be best spent. It was decided to work through a list of needed disability access improvements provided to us and Louth County Council by The Irish Wheelchair Associations, Drogheda Branch, based in Mayorality Street.”

“In the past two years there have been disability improvement works completed at:

  • Rathmullen Housing estate.
  • The bus stop behind Abbey shopping centre.
  • Mayoralty Street beside Wheel Chair Association
  • Shop Street
  • St. Peter’s cemetery.
  • The Bull Ring at Ollie’s Pub
  • Mayorality Street / Bachelor’s Lane junction
  • Twenties Lane
  • Bog Lane, Off Crosslane
  • Midwifery Education Centre at Hardeman’s Gardens

Cllr David Saurin said “These infrastructure improvement works will enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities making access to footpaths and roads safer for wheelchair users, people on mobility scooters and parents with prams or trolleys. The best part about this list of works is that not one cent from the discretionary funds was spent on planners, reports or bonuses, every bit of it went into the works to benefit the people of the area.”

Cllr Joanna Byrne concluded “We did want the dipped footpaths in the town centre at Peter Street and Fair Street worked on to make them safer for electric wheel chairs users and we were disappointed when we were informed that the council would not be looking at that area. We are happy we could play a part in improving disability access in Drogheda and now we will be examining where next in Drogheda and South Louth we can use our discretionary funds.”

L-R Cllr Kenneth Flood, Geraldine Lennon from Irish wheelchair association, Nicola McDonnell & Cllr David Saurin at the disability access improvements done at St Peters Cemetery, Crosslanes Drogheda.



Cllr Watters Looks Forward to Making Louth a Disability Friendly County

antoin-and-jimNew Sinn Féin Councillor Antóin Watters has hit the ground running as he attended his first full County Council meeting this morning.

The Dundalk Carlingford Councillor who replaced Cllr Jim Loughran on his retirement, hasd a motion before the Council this morning calling for Louth County Council to ‘begin the process of developing a Disability Action Plan for Louth’.

Speaking after his motion was passed, Cllr Watters said “I appreciate that Louth County Council is meeting its legal obligations regarding disability in the county but more needs to be done. I welcome the fact that Louth Council staff are willing to meet with me to discuss my proposals with a view to bringing a report back to the full Council.

“My aim is to improve the day to day life of people with disabilities in Louth. We need people from the public and private sector to get involved and we need to hear from all disability groups as to how we can make this county better for all, how we can make public amenities and areas accessible to all. There are things that I and others can take for granted and not realise that someone with a disability is excluded for whatever reason.

“Cavan County is a ‘Disability Friendly County’ and there is no reason why Louth can’t be also. This is an equality issue and everyone has the right to access public amenties/services/areas.”

Disability rights and inclusion Conference – Adams TD

gerry-adams-disability-rights-and-inclusion-conferenceDisability rights activists from North and South are today attending a conference on disability rights and inclusion in the Carrickdale Hotel in north Louth.

The conference, is organised by Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson, who is the vice president of the European Parliament’s disability intergroup. Among those participating are Les Allamby from the Human Rights Commission, Monica Wilson from Disability Action, Julie Ward MEP British Labour Party, Kate Beattie Barrister, Senator John Dolan, CEO Disability Federation of Ireland and An-Sofie Leenknecht, Human Rights Officer with the European Disability Forum.

Opening the conference Sinn Féin leader and Louth TD Gerry Adams called on the Irish government to “urgently clear away any outstanding obstacles to the signing of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which was signed by this state nine years ago. The failure of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael led governments to ratify is disgraceful.”

Gerry Adams said:

“It’s not easy being a citizen with a disability. All you want is fair play. An equal chance. Regrettably, government policy hasn’t made that a reality for many. In fact, three-quarters of disability service users are not satisfied with the level of control they have over their own lives and citizens with a disability suffer among the highest levels of consistent poverty.

People out of work due to illness or a disability are five times as likely to be at risk of poverty and survive on the lowest annual average disposable incomes, compared to other socio-economic groups. That has been compounded by years of service cutbacks and lack of service provision.

The CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions shows that more than half of people who are not in work due to disability or illness are experiencing enforced deprivation.

They cannot afford the very basics such as heat in their homes, food on the table and appropriate clothing, not to mention having minimal opportunities for social inclusion.”

The Louth TD cited local examples of disabled citizens not being allocated the resources they have a right to.

“The cancellation of respite provision at St. Mary’s in Drumcar and the non-continuance of funding for the WalkPeer Project, which supports people with disabilities to access employment and education, are causing severe difficulties and frustration.

The WalkPeer programme enables young people with a disability to access opportunities in mainstream education, training and employment within their communities.

It was one of the fourteen Disability Activation Schemes jointly funded by the Department of Social Protection and the European Social Fund. The government withdrew funding for such schemes, in a move that made no sense whatsoever. Only the Louth project has survived.

I have met Minister Finian McGrath many times on this issue. Its future is still uncertain.

Another massive issue was the scrapping of the Mobility Allowance Scheme and the Motorised Transport Grant Scheme, on which thousands of disabled citizens depended. Some 5,000 citizens are still in receipt of these grants, but there have been no new applicants since 2011. Government claims of putting an alternative in place have produced nothing in that period.

But perhaps the clearest evidence of the government’s failure to support citizens with disabilities has been its failure to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Irish State signed the Convention in 2007, but it is the only EU member state that has not yet ratified the Convention. That’s not acceptable.”

Concluding Gerry Adams said:

“We cannot have a fully inclusive republic without respect for diversity and the achievement of social equality by citizens that have been excluded. We have to be about ensuring equal rights and equal opportunities for all citizens. This means ensuring that citizens with disabilities, can play a full and independent part in all aspects of life, relying, as far as possible, on mainstream services for health, education and employment but with the support of tailored disability services where necessary.”