Thursday, 1 April 2021
Prime Time Investigates Programme on Department of Health: Statements
Louise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
I know this is an issue in which the Minister of State has taken a serious interest. I am going to say as much as I can in the time available.
I could stand here and talk about how outraged, upset and angry I was. I imagine the Minister of State would share many of those feelings - I genuinely do. I will read out what a mother in my community has said. She represents the voices of the families who have been devastated by this. I pay tribute to Shane Corr. I hope that the Government will stand by him and does not allow his life to be destroyed. That is what has happened to other whistleblowers. This man deserves protection.
These are the words of one mother:
My son is 8 now, was diagnosed just before his 3rd birthday and has only ever received 4 speech and occupational therapy sessions for early intervention, and we had to fight for a suitable school place for him for years. I dread to think that while I was processing my son's diagnosis, doing my best to learn how to help him, searching for school places while trying to keep my own head above water, that all our personal and confidential information could have been used against us, including details of my own mental health. In claiming D.C.A. you fill out a form, but you are advised to also send in a "family impact statement" and a description of a typical day. That form is everything negative about your child, and it is heart wrenching to fill in and write about how your child's diagnosis negatively impacts on your family. To think that so many people would have access to that very personal information is sickening ... There needs to be more transparency and openness on what information families provide will be shared and with whom, and consent given.
I know this is not lost on the Minister of State but many of these families were litigating for basic services. They were seeking services that a developed society would regard as the basic minimum.
I realise that the Minister of State does not sit at the Cabinet table but she is close to those who do. Aside from the current Minister for Health, there are three former Ministers with responsibility for health who sit at the Cabinet table. My question to the Minister of State is simple. The Minister of State said we needed to have a conversation about disability, and we do. It cannot always be a negative one. Some day we must have the opportunity to come to the House and celebrate those in our community with special or additional needs. However, it is always negative for these families. They have always been made to feel they are a burden by successive Governments and that is not right. I wish to ask the Minister of State one simple question given that there are three former Ministers with responsibility for health as well as one serving Minister for Health sitting at the Cabinet table. Will the Minister of State commit to asking them to share what they know about this disgusting practice? It might be legal but, by Jesus, it is not right. Will the Minister of State commit to asking them to share that information? Will the Minister of State ask them to go some way towards addressing the concerns and the real hurt these families have experienced?