I thank the Cathaoirleach, the Ceann Comhairle, the Superintendent, Oireachtas staff and all those involved in facilitating the Irish Sign Language interpreters who are in the Visitors Gallery and the Press Gallery in the Dáil. They are here because of the issues discussed yesterday in the Dáil and the motion we have tabled, No. 63, motion No. 11 regarding the cut in funding for the national advocacy service of the Irish Deaf Society. A range of organisations are affected by the cuts in funding of €1.2 million for voluntary organisations imposed by the Government. A copy of the Proclamation hangs in the main hall of the building, reminding us of the guarantee of equal rights and opportunities for all citizens of the State. While we are all agreed on that principle, we seem to find it very difficult to fulfil.
On the Order of Business yesterday Senator Jillian van Turnhout listed the organisations impacted on by thee cuts: the Alzheimer Society of Ireland; Arthritis Ireland; Aspire; Brí, the acquired brain injury advocacy association; the Centre for Independent Living; Chronic Pain Ireland; the Disability Federation of Ireland; the Dyslexia Association of Ireland; the Genetic and Rare Disorders Organisation; GROW; the Huntington’s Disease Association of Ireland; the Irish National Council of AD/HD Support Groups; Irish Autism Action; the Irish Deaf Society; the Irish Heart Foundation; the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association, IMNDA; the Irish Stammering Association; the Migraine Association of Ireland; MS Ireland; Muscular Dystrophy Ireland; Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland; the Neurological Alliance of Ireland; the Post Polio Support Group; the Asthma Society of Ireland; and the Carers Association. In an article in The Irish Times today Professor Orla Hardiman expresses her horror at the impending closure of the Neurological Alliance of Ireland which gives a voice to more than 700,000 people and comprises 30 aligned organisations. A spokesperson for the Neurological Alliance of Ireland states: “The Taoiseach’s statement that charities can appeal the decision will be cold comfort to the charities affected as no timeline for the appeals process has been provided and they are left in limbo with no choice but to close their doors.”
The members of the Irish Deaf Society who are in the Visitors Gallery have seen their advocacy service wiped out. Who will communicate and interact with the Government on their behalf? The gulf in understanding between the hearing and deaf communities is enormous and was put into stark and almost comical focus by the statement from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government that representatives of the Irish Deaf Society should call in to discuss the cut in funding. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business to have the motion we have tabled debated today. We are seeking a reinstatement of funding not only for the Irish Deaf Society but also for all the organisations impacted on. They all rely on this funding to keep going. Staff in these organisations now find themselves unemployed, with no indication as to when their appeal will be heard or whether funding will be reinstated in five, six, ten or 12 months, if at all.