There is great anxiety, annoyance and outrage at the rumour of the imminent closure of the National Rehabilitation Centre in Ennis, County Clare. The secretary of the Disabled People of Clare, Mr. Dermot Hayes, and CPI contacted me about this matter.
There are 6,000 disabled people in County Clare and the unit has been a tremendous help to them. It is rumoured that the centre will close on Thursday and, if that is so, it will cause great inconvenience and hardship to the disabled in Clare and the surrounding area. Disabled people are often paid low wages and incur hidden costs. They would experience great hardship and inconvenience if they were asked to travel from Clare to Limerick, as those interested in promoting work for the disabled are aware.
The Government has always placed great emphasis on equality for the disabled. The Ministers for Health and Law Reform have emphasised that equality must be sought at every opportunity through our laws. Society's attitude towards the disabled has changed and the new directive on access to buildings has been implemented.
The National Rehabilitation Board should be facilitated in every way to continue their work in County Clare. The board may feel it has no option but to move to Limerick for financial reasons. I hope the Minister will give as much support and assistance as possible to ensure that the office remains in County Clare. We would like the office to be manned by able bodied persons and by a member of the disabled community to give practical advice and help. The Disabled People of Clare have promoted this positive development.
The issue of integrating the disabled into the workforce has been raised in the House and in committees. We have not yet reached the 3 per cent quota for the disabled in the public service. I hope we will do so as soon as possible.
The NRB in Ennis provides an important service which needs to be continued. In County Clare 6,000 people avail of the service. I acknowledge their work and the help they have given to people on a national, regional and county basis. I hope the Minister will use his good offices to ensure the continuation of the NRB office in Ennis. I look forward to his reply.