Private Members' Business. - Services for People with Disabilities: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by Deputy Breda Moynihan-Cronin on Tuesday, 11 February 2003:
That Dáil Éireann, recognising that 2003 is the European Year of People with Disabilities, supporting the wonderful national effort that has gone into the preparations for the Special Olympics World Games, conscious of the fact that there is a growing crisis in essential services for people with disabilities throughout Ireland, and noting that no allocation whatever has been made for new services and places in 2003, calls on the Government to immediately:
– allocate an additional €35 million for new places in the current year;
– arrange to meet the national bodies representing people with disabilities to agree a plan to eliminate waiting lists for all essential services within three years;
– publish the Intellectual Disability Database, which contains the most up-to-date information on waiting lists for people with intellectual disabilities;
and
– bring forward the long-delayed Disability Bill, on which agreement has now been reached within the consultation process established by Government.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "That Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
– recognises the need for the further development of services to people with intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities and those with autism,
– approves the Government's commitment to put in place an enhanced level of service provision in line with the programme for Government,
– commends the actions taken by this Government and the former Government since 1997 in meeting this commitment, which include the allocation of additional funding of €555 million; and
– notes the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government to conclude the consultation process and publish an amended Disability Bill in 2003.
–(Minister of State at the Department
of Health and Children, Mr. T. O'Malley).

I wish to share time with Deputy Grealish.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to add my voice to this very important debate on services and funding for people with disabilities. It will be watched closely by people with disabilities, their carers and families. There are gaps in the services and there is no denying the fact that much remains to be done. However, this Government is committed to providing funding and investment for services for people with physical and intellectual disabilities despite the difficult economic climate of 2003.

Significant funding has been made available by this Administration in recent years which is not to say that there is not more work to do. There are areas which need to be prioritised and problems which must be identified and resolved. I am very conscious of the demands of people with disability and I am particularly concerned about certain groups who I feel should be prioritised when money becomes available. I was a health board member for a number of years and I recognise the substantial investment which has made in spite of the condemnatory tone of the Opposition motion. I hope that level of investment will be made in the future. As a health board member I met with many groups representing people with disability over the last number of years and I recognise that the case for those suffering in the autistic spectrum is one that quite clearly needs to be recognised as soon as funding becomes available.

The recent figures for autism are quite alarming and indicate a huge potential drain on the Exchequer unless we get to grips with the problem as soon as possible. In the 1960s one in 2,500 presented with autism, in the 1970s the figure was one in 1,000, in the 1980s it was one in 500, in 2001 one in 125 and in 2002 one in 86. Quite clearly the figures are cause for great concern. The American experience is of an incidence of ASD is one in 129 which makes the Irish scenario sadly worse. I appeal to the Minister to prioritise autism as soon as further funding becomes available and to get involved in dealing with what will become a huge drain on the State's resources. There is evidence that if a child with ASD is given three years of early, intense and appropriate intervention, substantial and life changing progress can be made. Surely, this is a preferable option to a life sentence in an institution.

Tonight's debate takes place in the context of reduced funding and it is important to make the economic case for intervention. Far too little attention has been given to date to people with ASD or similar difficulties when early intervention can have a huge impact on language skills, communication, social behaviour, developmental rates and IQ and educational attainment. That means greater employment opportunities. Quite clearly, that means a need to provide less money from the Exchequer while providing greater opportunities to participate in society. The problems in this area must be recognised.

The commitment of the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, and of the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley, indicates that while funding is not freely available, they will attempt to ensure that there will be further improvements in the disabilities sector.

I am delighted to be given the opportunity to speak in the House.

The Progressive Democrats are committed to providing adequate support and funding to people with intellectual disabilities be those physical, intellectual or sensory. Our policy objective in health has always been patient centred and has aimed to provide quality care at all levels.

Tremendous work is being done to improve the quality of service available to those with intellectual disabilities and the appointment of Deputy Tim O'Malley as Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for this area is a clear sign the Government takes its responsibilities seriously. I admit that while work is being done and funding has been allocated, there is much still to do. The health system is not performing as we would like it to, but the Progressive Democrats are committed to working hard to reform it. As the junior partners in Government we will continue to highlight the requirements in this area while fighting for additional funding for people with intellectual disabilities, particularly during this European year of people with disabilities.

Excellent work is being done by individuals and community groups in preparation for the Special Olympics and we acknowledge the efforts being made. However, Opposition Deputies while at pains to point out holes in the health system choose to ignore the considerable work that has been done to date. The health strategy of 2001 represents a ten year view of how to progress investment with reform of the health service. One of the steps taken in the strategy's first year and funded by budget 2002 is the provision of €39 million to provide 100 new residential places for those with intellectual disabilities and autism. Also provided were 75 respite places and day places. The programme to transfer persons with an intellectual disability or autism from our psychiatric hospitals or other inappropriate places is continuing.

Significant advances have been made in recent years in the provision of community psychiatry, nursing services, community residences, day hospitals and day centres, all of which are acknowledged by Amnesty International in its report. Prior to 1997, the level of ongoing funding available for health related services for those with physical or sensory disabilities was in the region of €90 million. Since then, additional ongoing funding of just over €113 million has been provided to maintain and develop the services. This level of additional funding has facilitated substantial progress with regard to the development of residential care, respite care, day therapy and other services which have greatly increased the quality and quantity of the services available. In the period 1999 to 2002 an additional €70.7 million was invested in the mental health services. In the current year additional revenue funding of €7.6 million will provide for the development and expansion of community services, increased child and adolescent services and the expansion of old age psychiatry services. The money will also provide liaison psychiatry services in general hospitals and enhance the support provided by voluntary agencies.

Approximately, €190 million in capital allowance will be provided over the life of the national development plan to fund acute psychiatry units to replace services previously provided by psychiatric hospitals. Substantial progress has been made and 18 general hospital psychiatric units are now operational. A further three units will become available to the mental health services in the near future and two are under construction. Several others are at various stages of planning.

Approximately 400 community psychiatric residences are providing over 3,000 places. This compares to 111 residences providing less than 1,000 places in 1984. There are approximately 200 hospital day centres providing over 3,500 places. This compares to 39 such centres providing approximately 1,200 places in 1984. Significant funding is also being made available by the Government to support groups and organisations in the sector.

My colleagues and I in the Progressive Democrats are committed to improving the quality of care in the mental health sector and we will be seeking additional resources for this purpose during the Government's term of office.

I am glad of the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I commend the Government amendment to the House and congratulate the efforts made in this regard by the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley. I also acknowledge the presence in the Chamber of the Minister of State, Deputy Callely, who up to recently was a health board colleague of mine. It is all right for people to "tut tut" but we do not have to accept those people's views about politics. I currently find myself on the Government benches, but if I were on the Opposition benches I would not have to worry as much.

Is the Deputy really worrying about it? He does not give that impression.

One is elected by the people to do a job without fear or favour. I have a strong role to play in representing the concerns raised about these issues by my constituents throughout Dublin South-West, including Tallaght, Greenhills, Templeogue and Firhouse. It is making good use of Private Members' time to contribute to a debate such as this one. If I were to accept what the Opposition Deputy said, I would not contribute to the debate but, in fairness, I think Government Deputies should do so. I have a role in trying to persuade Ministers to respond to these issues and whatever political role I may have in future, I will continue to fulfil those responsibilities.

With other colleagues, I have received a huge amount of mail from people throughout the constituency who are genuinely concerned about the funding of programmes for people with disabilities. They have asked me to present these concerns to the Government and I wish to do that as part of this debate. I raised these issues in the House as recently as last week and I do not wish to repeat what has been said by my colleagues. The Minister has pointed out, however, that despite the significant investment that has been made in the sector, other factors are contributing to the growing waiting lists, in particular for residential services. This is so, even though the number of persons in receipt of such services, including full-time residential services, continues to increase. The Minister pointed out that the increased birth rate in the 1960s and 1970s has resulted in large numbers of adults in their late 20s and early 30s requiring full-time residential services. In addition, people with an intellectual disability are living longer than heretofore, thus adding to the need for services compared to previous generations.

The Minister also pointed out that this has been the international experience in service provision in this population. I bring to my work in the Dáil the experience of my constituency, as well as my work on the local authority and the health board. I served on the Eastern Health Board which later became the Eastern Regional Health Authority. I voluntarily stood down from that authority last week, although it was something I was unhappy about. Time presses on, however, and one has to do other things in a political career. I believe strongly in the important role of local authorities and health boards in dealing with the issues that are before us today.

I do not wish my remarks to be taken as patronising but on a number of occasions I have paid tributes to Opposition colleagues, particularly Deputy Finian McGrath who often brings his personal experience to bear in debates. While I do not have the same professional experience as Deputy McGrath, like him, I have experience of dealing with constituents who have problems arising from disability issues. In that regard I am happy to support them.

A few days ago, I attended the opening of a multi-million euro facility in my constituency which was presided over by the Taoiseach. At that ceremony, he was commended by the chairperson and chief executive of that service provider for the Government's commitment to providing services for people with disabilities. I am pleased to be able to put that on the record.

There have been a number of key developments in recent years in relation to the enhancement of existing services and the development of new services to meet identified needs in the area of disabilities. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley, spoke about some of them in last night's debate.

This evening I wish to talk about the developments in training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Over the years, people with disabilities have been at a disadvantage in training and employment. There is now a fresh impetus to the development of services provided for people with disabilities in the areas of training and employment. These initiatives include the assignment of responsibility of vocational training and employment services for people with disabilities to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, thus bringing these services into the mainstream and opening new options for individuals, which were not previously available.

Another initiative involves the provision of additional funding by the Department of Health and Children for new and existing places in day care services, including sheltered occupational services. Since 1997, the Government's financial commitment in funding for disability services, is €555 million, including €37.5 million in 2003. This figure includes €180 million for physical and sensory disabilities, as well as €33 million for rehabilitative training and sheltered work accommodation.

The development of a draft code of practice for sheltered occupational services has been completed and my Department is now examining the draft document. The introduction of this code will clarify the status of people with disabilities in sheltered occupational services and will ensure that in future these services will meet approved quality standards. A review of funding for sheltered occupational services is also in progress. This will lead to a better understanding of the funding requirements of these services and will facilitate the optimal use of available resources.

These ongoing developments and improvements to training and services for people with disabilities will assist them in their personal development and vocational fulfilment and will lead to increased social inclusion and a greater realisation of their economic and personal potential. The Department of Health and Children and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment have responsibility for the provision of training. Health boards have taken over responsibility for rehabilitative training while FÁS now deals with vocational training and employment services for people with disabilities. Enhancements to rehabilitative training have been effective in recent years since that responsibility was devolved to the Department of Health and Children.

In 2001, additional funding of €1.7 million was made available for guidance and assessment staff. This facilitated the provision of 38 posts. The sum of €0.96 million was made available for service provider agencies and €2.52 million for the provision of training bonuses.

On a point of order, will copies of the Minister of State's script be circulated?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

That is not a point of order.

That is not a point of order, is it?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

No.

Thank you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

A Minister's script is normally circulated.

It is not a script. I have some speaking notes, including statistics. In 2002, additional funding of €10.7 million was made available for the provision of 500 wholetime equivalent training places. The addition of these 500 new places represents an unprecedented increase of 24% in the overall number of rehabilitation training places, with ongoing benefits in future years. That is a fair achievement with quite an amount of growth and potential in 2003.

I wish to deal with an issue of concern to me. People have come to me because they are concerned about emergency cases. My understanding is that there should be no concern on the part of parents or people involved in services regarding the provision of care in emergency situations. People requiring placements will be accommodated. If there are difficulties I have no doubt the Department—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

The Deputy should conclude.

Will the Minister of State give way?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

No. There cannot be questions now because the time is limited. Each speaker has five minutes.

I thought that was always allowed.

How many seconds have I left?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

None.

No time.

I will conclude by saying that the Government has given visible evidence of its commitment to those with disabilities. Targeted and ring-fenced funding has been provided in recent years for service areas which have been prioritised. These resources have been targeted at specific service elements, including support services for children and adults, and residential, respite and day services. This Government is committed to moving forward to further enhance the level of support available to people with disabilit ies. With the active participation of all involved, this issue can be progressed to achieve a quality and cost-effective service for people with disabilities.

It is fitting that the House is discussing a motion on disability services. In Private Members' time it is usual for the Opposition to highlight the ill and the Government the good. In the few minutes available to me I will say it exactly as I see it.

Does the Deputy really believe it?

The Labour Party motion notes that the Special Olympics are being held here and it acknowledges the hard work involved in the organisation of the games. Anyone who is involved in the Special Olympics will appreciate the tremendous effort which is being put in by people all over the country. The idea of host town has been a great success.

I have attended some fund-raising functions for the Special Olympics. I heard one person at a function who summed up the Special Olympics by saying that Irish people normally opened their hearts to visitors but the Special Olympics will open our minds. That is true.

For too long we have concentrated on people's disabilities rather than on their abilities. We have failed to give them the opportunities to progress as they should and develop to their full potential. In his contribution to this debate the Minister spoke about the significant progress that has been achieved in terms of the growth of funding available for the disability sector. He said that the Government is committed to developing the health-funded services for people with disabilities. I acknowledge that there has been a significant increase in the funding made available. It was easy to do this because money was plentiful. It is easy to increase the percentage when one is starting from a low base. It is a pity that the process of investment in the services for the disability sector appears to have been put on hold. There is no money available this year for any new developments. Approximately 500 people will leave school and they should be going into adult services but what awaits them? Continuity is essential in any investment and a crisis situation will develop without continuity. It is vital that the Cabinet treats this matter as a priority. I am sure that people directly involved in the disability sector find it frustrating to hear Ministers arguing over who has responsibility for delivering the service or providing the funds for it.

That is for sure.

What is obvious to me is that a supplementary budget is required to allow the progress made in the past number of years to continue.

Hear, hear.

I ask the Taoiseach to become involved in it and to ensure that it happens. It is not that long ago that the Taoiseach apologised to the people of this country for the children who were abused while under State care. I foresee a situation in a few years when there will be a public apology to the disability sector for the way it has been neglected. All parties should hold their heads in shame—

Hear, hear.

We have neglected the disability sector. It even happens in this House. I was first elected in 1989 and this was the most inaccessible building one could find. It was only when a young man in a wheelchair was appointed to the Seanad that changes were made. I do not think I have much more time.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

No.

It does not give me any pleasure to oppose the Labour Party motion. There is a lot of merit in it. I appeal to my colleagues in the Cabinet to put their heads together and to resolve this situation. We have ignored and neglected it for long enough.

I agree with many of the sentiments expressed by my colleague, Deputy Seán Power, in his contribution. As a member of the Western Health Board I am only too aware of the lack of services for many people with intellectual disabilities and autism. I am aware of the case of one family where a young man with autism received no services until he was 15 years of age. He is now in his early 20s and due to staff shortages in the institution where he resides most of the time, there has been a withdrawal of services this year. This is a regrettable situation and it cannot be tolerated.

I recognise that 100% of the income tax take of the country is being spent on health each year. Two thirds of the additional funding for non-capital investment has been invested in health. We all recognise that we can never spend enough money in the area of health or to provide services for people with disabilities. There have been five years of unprecedented investment and, as a result, people's expectations correctly have been raised—

The Deputy is joking.

I use the word "correctly" and that is a good and positive thing because there have been so few services available to them in the past.

Is the Deputy telling me that our expectations are too high?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Order, please.

No, and I have had the pleasure of contributing to a motion on this matter before the last general election. I support the investment of additional moneys in the area of disability.

Will the Deputy vote that way? She should walk the talk.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Order, please.

I would like to make a constructive point. The Seanad is today debating the Unclaimed Life Assurance Policies Bill. This fund is to be dedicated to areas of disadvantage. I ask the Minister to sit down with his ministerial colleagues and try to direct some of the funds dealt with in this legislation to the disability sector. It would be a worthwhile way of spending this money.

My colleague mentioned the Special Olympics. It is an enriching experience for anyone fortunate enough to be involved. My home town is host to Venezuela. People of all ages are becoming involved with the Special Olympics and are recognising the wonderful contribution to society made by people with disabilities. It is marvellous to listen to the enthusiasm of the medal winners at the last Special Olympics. It is incumbent on all of us in the House to ensure that all the funding that can be made available should be invested in this area.

There have been some accusations from the other side of the House regarding the delay on the disability Bill. It is important that a proper consultative process take place before this Bill is brought before the House so that it will deal with the needs of people with disabilities. The Bill will then enjoy all-party support when it is brought before the House. It is important that it be done as a matter of urgency. I support the Government amendment to this motion. I welcome the opportunity to speak and I look forward to additional moneys being made available.

I will share my time with Deputies Healy, Harkin, Ó Caoláin and Gormley.

I thank the Chair for the opportunity to address the House on this important motion. I stood for the 29th Dáil on a strong health and disability platform. I had the honour of being elected by the people of Charlemont, Marino, Griffith Avenue, Fairview, Drumcondra, Clontarf, Coolock, Donnycarney, Beaumont, Raheny and Artane. The people of these areas voted for someone who would try to do something about the lack of services for people with disabilities.

I am also a member of the Independent Health Alliance and I welcome the candidates from that group here tonight. I also welcome the other members of disability groups to the Visitors' Gallery. Since I was elected a high percentage of my queries, particularly constituency queries, have been about disabilities and waiting lists. This Government must respect this mandate and must listen to the views of parents and families of people with intellectual disabilities. Their voices must be heard. I intend to represent their interests in this Dáil and will raise the issue at every opportunity and demand services as a matter of right.

It is essential that we look at the reality for many of our citizens. I urge the Government to do something about the crisis situation where many terminally ill parents are responsible for adults with a disability. We have 1,711 people with disabilities who need a full-time residential service. We have 861 people who need a day care service, 1,014 people with intellectual disabilities who need a respite service and 462 people with intellectual disabilities who have no service whatsoever. We also have a disgraceful situation where 485 people with intellectual disabilities are resident in inappropriate conditions in psychiatric hospitals. This is unacceptable. On the positive side, these figures are small. A figure of 1,711 is a small figure in terms of waiting lists and people. We can do something and can move forward if we get cross-party agreement.

This debate is also about broken promises. It is essential that we remind ourselves of the facts. In a letter of 15 May, from the leader of the Progressive Democrats, Deputy Harney, to the Federation of Voluntary Bodies, she states: "In short, we are committed to dealing with the waiting lists for services for people with intellectual disability. If we are in a position to negotiate a programme for Government this commitment will form part of it." I ask the Tánaiste to live up to that commitment. We are waiting for action. The figure of €35 million is mentioned in the motion. We ask the Government to put its money where its mouth is. Figures for new developments for 2002 show there has been a serious drop in the number of places planned compared to the previous two years.

I was upset and disappointed by the Taoiseach's remarks at the Mansion House about the groups who mounted a dignified protest outside the Irish launch of the European people with disabilities. His reference to a small crowd made up by four organisations was not only hurtful to our members but also misleading. It was inaccurate and out of order. NAMHI is the national representative group, founded in 1961, of over 160 organisations providing services for 28,000 people with intellectual disability in Ireland. It is the equivalent of the ICTU. The other three organisations, the National Parents Siblings Alliance, the Irish Autism Alliance and the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies, have provided services to people with intellectual disabilities and are their national representative groups. It was never the intention to have a large group of people outside the Mansion House as we did not want to detract from the launch of the European year.

Our purpose was to highlight our grave fears about the impact of the budget on people with intellectual disabilities. People travelled from Cork, Kerry, Limerick and elsewhere to attend. Some of them left at 4 a.m. to be outside the Mansion House in time. The Taoiseach was out of order and should apologise. During the week I was on a radio programme with the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, who did apologise. I fully accept his apology.

Autistic people are suffering inhuman and degrading treatment which is a breach of their human rights. This is another scandal. Figures of 500, 1,000 and 1,500 have been bandied about. We need exact figures in order to plan properly for the future and provide a service. I urge Members to support this motion, particularly the call for €35 million to be invested in services for people with disabilities. I ask the Government to bring in a strong disability Bill.

I support this motion. I have a strong background in the health services and am aware of the difficulties and lack of services available for people with disability. It is a shame that in the European year for persons with disabilities we should have to talk about the extent of the lack of services as outlined by Deputy Finian McGrath.

The touchstone of the humanity of any society, Government or nation is how it treats its minorities. We have a significant minority of people with disabilities of various kinds. It is a serious blot on our humanity that additional services are not available for 2003. When the Government came into office its programme stated:

An unprecedented opportunity has been given uniquely to us in this generation. It is the opportunity to build a fair society of equal opportunity and of sustained prosperity in an island at peace with itself. We aim to be an inclusive society but there are those who remain left out. We are committed to building service provisions and legislative frameworks which enable people with disabilities to fulfil their potential and make full contributions to the economic and social life of our country.

That was part of An Agreed Programme for Government. Unfortunately, that agreement has not been carried through in the 2003 budget. Deputy Finian McGrath has outlined clearly the additional services that are not provided for this year. I support the call for the additional €35 million for those services. I ask the Minister to address the question of meeting the various bodies representing people with disabilities. This is an urgent need.

I am concerned at the manner in which the disabled persons grant scheme has been destroyed by local authorities throughout the country. We have heard weekly since last November about the destruction by local authorities, including my own in south Tipperary, of the disabled persons grant scheme. What is worse is that members of some parties in this House who support this motion are voting to destroy those grants on their local authorities.

I am pleased to support this motion on disability. I have no personal experience of dealing with or caring for a person with disability. It is through contact with Ms Kathy Sinnott, who is present here tonight, and with parents and carers, that I have become aware of the scandalous situation that exists in Celtic tiger Ireland for those with disability. I do not use the word "scandalous" lightly. Having read and listened to many heartbreaking stories I use the word with a clear conscience. Some of those stories include the fact that there are approximately 1,000 mentally disabled persons in psychiatric hospitals with no proper therapy and no adequate medical treatment for their particular situation.

We have heard heartbreaking stories of parents and carers trying to cope at home. They are terrorised by the challenging behaviour of disabled six-foot adults. No care workers, services or adequate back-up are available to them. In 2003 the UN Commission on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was critical of Ireland's treatment of people with disability. Its members have no axe to grind. They are not members of the Opposition. The UN Human Rights Commission recommended that further action be taken by Ireland to ensure the full enjoyment of covenant rights to disabled persons.

I stress that this was in the context of the new health strategy. When one walks into Leinster House the first document one sees is the Proclamation where we are reminded that we must cherish all children of the nation equally. People with a disability are not treated equally in Ireland today.

Whether we wish to accept it, the reality is that there is a major epidemic in autism, which was referred to earlier in the debate. Families want to care for their children but they need our help and support. Early intervention is critical because the challenging behaviour of autism can be substantially improved. I concur with Deputy Power and congratulate him on his speech. An apology in a few years' time with compensation is useless. We need the services now.

I endorse the motion calling on the Government to support people with disabilities, both through proper funding and the introduction of rights-based legislation. I commend the Labour Party on introducing the issue.

As a party striving to create an Ireland of equals, Sinn Féin is committed to bringing about equality for people with disabilities. The enormous goodwill of the Irish people towards people with disabilities is evidenced in the widespread involvement of the public in helping to prepare for the Special Olympics World Games, which will be held later this year. This is in sharp contrast to the attitude shown by the Government to the high levels of poverty and social exclusion faced by people with disabilities.

I have a copy of a letter penned by the leader of the Progressive Democrats who was then in Opposition but is now the Tánaiste. The Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley, will be familiar with the content which states: "I would like to assure you of my view that the mentally handicapped deserve priority when it comes to the allocation of resources within our health services." That was the view expressed by the Tánaiste when in opposition in 1996. What is her position in regard to that statement and the commitment she made then? What is the reality today? People with mental handicap and intellectual disabilities and their families remain among the most neglected groups of people in this country.

The severe cut in the budget allocated to the health boards for mentally handicapped services in 2003 is scandalous – it has gone from €38 million to €13.3 million. These cuts have been described by the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies and the National Association of the Mentally Handicapped of Ireland as bringing us back to the mid-1990s, to the period when that letter was written by the party leader of the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley. The caring agencies and the voluntary bodies cannot maintain existing services, let alone proceed with badly needed new developments. I have said this to the Minister of State on a number of occasions over the past weeks and I appreciate that he is listening. It will mean longer waiting lists for day care, respite care and essential long-term residential care.

We are talking about the most vulnerable people in this land, many of whom cannot articulate their own needs, concerns and fears. They depend on us, not only those on the Opposition benches, but all elected representatives, to be their advocates. Carers of the mentally handicapped are mostly elderly people trying to cope with their loved ones. Many of them are lone parents whose spouses have died. Can we imagine their concern as to what will become of their children on their own deaths? This is the reality for many people. I have described it to the Minister of State in graphic terms in recent weeks. These are the people with whom we are dealing and the Government must make provision for them.

We must take some encouragement tonight from what has been said by Government backbenchers. Perhaps they will translate their words into action and deliver on them during the vote to bring about a commitment to change this situation. The Government must re-examine its priorities. People with disabilities need to be assured that the funding which that sector is to receive is protected even in times of economic downturn. I strenuously emphasise this point. Economic downturn demands that there is a re-visitation of the configuration of the budget. There is one sector in our community that must be protected from economic downturn and that is those who are suffering from disability and intellectual disability. Funding must be ring-fenced and index-linked. It must continue to address not only current service needs but also the needs of those who have yet to be addressed within the wider configuration of that demand.

I thank the Minster of State for listening and hope he will take on board all that has been said.

Like other Deputies, I stood in front of the Mansion House a number of weeks ago as part of a protest at the European Year of People with Disabilities event. It was a cold, wet and miserable day as we waited for the Taoiseach. In trying to gauge the mood of the crowd, I detected a sense of frustration, a sense of anger. Great stoicism and resignation were also evident but behind it all a sense of dignity was apparent. It was particularly evident when the Taoiseach passed by on his way out. He stopped in front of the protesters and for the most part they remained silent. I do not know if I could have remained silent in their circumstances.

Their stories were familiar because, like many people in this Chamber, I know families where there are children with a disability. I am aware of their suffering. It is very clear that as well as being very tiring and draining, much of their time is spent fundraising. The Minister of State should be aware that if the Government is not providing the money, it has to come from elsewhere.

Deputy Ó Caoláin alluded to the concern of parents about what will happen to their children when they pass on. Can they trust the State with their children? On the record of the Government they clearly cannot trust the State. I hope the Minister of State can understand this. The Government's record has been abysmal. We have had unprecedented wealth over many years and many of the friends of the Government have enjoyed the fruits of the Celtic tiger. The real harshness of the philosophy underpinning the Government has been revealed because while those who were already wealthy have benefited, the less well off, the most vulnerable in our society, have benefited to a much lesser extent. In the past I have referred to this philosophy as Thatcherite. I have said it has been about greed, not need, but really it is Darwinian – it is the survival of the fittest. The weakest will always go to the wall.

In essence, the Government has managed to paper over the cracks by wonderful spin-doctoring. I would not be surprised if at the end of this year, people really believed that the Government had done more for those with disability than any other Government, but of course that would be complete deception.

We must look at what has happened. During the Nice treaty referendum campaign friends of Fianna Fáil in the area of disability campaigned against the Nice treaty. I found that most reprehensible. I very much support the motion put forward this evening by the Labour Party. It is scandalous that the 2003 budget saw a significant cut in spending. This was morally unjustifiable. We must look after the most vulnerable in our society, those with a disability. It is a very sad reflection on our society if we cannot do that.

With the permission of the House, I propose to share my time with Deputies Gilmore, Wall and Sherlock.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Many issues of great importance are debated in this House, but few have as real and immediate an impact on the quality of the lives of the citizens of this State as the motion before us tonight. There has been a slow realisation that for too long we have denied a group of our citizens the right to be full citizens of this nation. That group comprises those who have disabilities. They are entitled to full citizenship and the responsibility to deliver those rights rests with this House.

I say this as a former Minister for Health. All of us share in the responsibility for the fact that these people have, for so long, been denied basic rights of living, of participation, of being full citizens and of enjoying the rights the rest of us demand and expect as the norm. The extent of the need was spelt out by my colleagues last night and tonight, in particular by our chief spokesperson, Deputy Breeda Moynihan-Cronin.

This night, 1,711 people with intellectual disabilities require full-time residential placement, 861 people require a day service, 1,014 require a respite service and more than 400 people with intellectual disabilities are living in unsuitable conditions in long-stay psychiatric hospitals. These facts have been repeated many times in the past few hours. They are cold statistics but lying behind those cold numbers are individual people with families and friends.

Let me give a glimpse of what lies behind those numbers. From all the files that all of us have from our clinic cases I have picked one. A constituent of mine – I call him Joe although that is not his name – suffers from Down's syndrome and, unusually, has behavioural problems. He is looked after by elderly parents who are at their wits end trying to mind him at home. The health board has made a complete assessment of his needs, the senior psychologist has determined what he needs, but there is no place for him. The stark and awful choice faced by his elderly parents is to cope with him at home or leave him in a long-stay psychiatric hospital. They have tried both. I have talked to them and I have seen how distraught they are in trying to cope with this reality.

This is a reality of which I am personally aware but it is multiplied by more than 400, the number of people who are improperly placed in psychiatric hospitals. We saw a glimpse of some of the cases in our psychiatric hospitals in a report published this month.

In this wealthy country we have collective responsibility to set priorities. This House votes money for many things. There is nothing more useful we could do with €35 million than spend it on the services demanded by these least demanding of our citizens. I ask for consensus on all sides of the House, with no one scoring political points, when the vote is called at 8.30 p.m.

I join my colleagues in the Labour Party in pressing this motion and attempting to persuade the Government, even at this late stage, not to divide the House on this issue but to support the Labour Party motion and agree to provide the resources which the Government acknowledges is needed to meet the needs of people with disabilities, whether physical, intellectual or sensory, and of their carers and families who are so badly pressed. It beggars belief that a Government which regards itself as streetwise and is sensitive to lobbies and interests could not have provided a single additional cent in this year's budget and Estimates for people with disabilities and could not have provided resources for additional places in residential or respite care.

All Deputies have received correspondence from people with disabilities and from their parents, families and friends, setting out the distressful conditions in which they have to live. We have all attended meetings in our constituencies. I have attended meetings in the Carmona Services premises in Dunmore House in Glenageary with my constituency colleagues, Deputies Fiona O'Malley, Hanafin and Andrews and we all agreed that provision of resources for people with disabilities is a priority.

The Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley is right about one thing, there is no monopoly on compassion in this House. We heard genuine compassion from Deputies on the Government side of the House on this issue. However, why is it that when some lobbies appear before Government they get only compassion while others get immediate action? Before Christmas the Government rushed emergency legislation through the House because it had been lobbied by the powerful, able-bodied and politically well-connected building industry. That lobby succeeded in getting immediate action and emergency legislation pushed through this House.

The Government can save its compassion for the building industry, for those who are powerful and able to look after themselves, and provide the resources for those who are not able to look after themselves, who need care and assistance and are in a state of distress because they are not receiving it. It is not too late for the Government to agree to the Labour Party motion.

I find it difficult to believe that at some stage this year when so much is happening in relation to people with disabilities, the Government will not make some grand announcement of additional resources for people with disabilities. If it is in the Government's mind to use the dormant accounts fund or to find a pot of money somewhere with which to make a grand announcement at some strategic point, it should not play games with this issue.

People with disabilities need the resources urgently. I appeal to the Government to agree to the Labour Party motion, to provide the resources and give relief and comfort to those who are worried tonight about how they are going to care for members of their families who have a disability.

I support the motion tabled by my colleague, Deputy Moynihan-Cronin. That no funds are available for new development in relation to people with disabilities is of major concern to me in my constituency, as it is to everyone who has contributed to the debate, irrespective of which side of the House they are on. When a case is put, it only relates to oneself or people known to one. Before coming into the House I was given a letter from the parents of a girl, who attends school in Dublin while the parents live in Kildare, expressing their concern that no funding has been made available.

Before Christmas a fine fellow in my constituency with mild mental disability caused problems in his own home and was taken by the health board and put into a local hotel with three professional people where three rooms were booked. After a week the young boy was moved to a different hotel with the three professional people but there was still no means of providing the facilities the child needed. A week later he was moved on to another hotel, involving further costs – approximately €15,000 per week was spent on the case. That no funds are available for new development means that child will remain in a rented house in Newbridge with three professional people minding him. That is because there are no services available and because the Government has ignored its pre-election pledges.

I am delighted my constituency colleague, Deputy Power, had the guts to stand up here and demand the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health and Children to sit around the table with the Cabinet and to bring in a supplementary budget. It is frightful to think of the concerns of parents in these circumstances. When people approached the Taoiseach, the leader of the Government and the Cabinet, he told them he would write to the Minister for Health and Children. Is that not a scandal and an indictment on the Government? The Taoiseach should have sat at the table and argued the point, making sure the Minister for Health and Children and the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley, had the necessary funds. From any standpoint €20 million is a dot in the ocean in terms of the overall health budget or the Estimates as presented by the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy.

The Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, has laid the blame time and again on the Minister for Health and Children saying he gave him his slice of the cake and he can do what he wants with it. He did not believe that the people were undermined, but they have not got what they want to care for children with disabilities. The Minister of State, Deputy O'Malley, is a good Minister. He is in a Department that can bear fruit and he will take action if given the money and the opportunity.

Those on the backbenches who are supportive of the motion did not say there was anything wrong with our motion. I ask them to put pressure on the relevant Minister and the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach should realise a letter is no good at this stage for these people, what we want is action and we want it tonight before we leave the House.

Deputy Gilmore is right in saying it is not too late. I hope in his reply the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, will show that the Government will honour what is being sought and, more importantly, will honour those who have children with disabilities. Those who work with people with disabilities are concerned that we will not retain existing services due to the staff embargo.

I support what has been said by everyone. I hope the Minister for Health and Children will make the appropriate representations to the Minister for Finance, not by letter, but around the Cabinet table to ensure €20 million is given to this sector.

I compliment Deputy Moynihan-Cronin on this motion by the Labour Party, which is very specific in calling for €35 million. The amendment to the motion should be withdrawn because all we have heard is empty rhetoric and we will probably hear more of it from the Minister, the Progressive Democrats and the Government benches.

The Labour Party motion is specific. There is no funding for new services development in 2003. Consequently there will be no funding for emergencies which will inevitably arise when a parent or carer is no longer able to look after their child or in the event of death. I have stated frequently when speaking to people with disabilities that this is their country too, but so far as Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats are concerned this is not their country, they are a forgotten people.

I have been involved in my area of Mallow and in the constituency locally, and it was always a great joy to see people becoming involved in and organising events. That is knocked on the head now and the Minister should do something about it immediately. Last weekend a person with a disability went to the local authority in Mallow in north Cork and handed in an application form for a disabled person's grant. The person was told the application would not be looked at until such time as that person paid €50.

That is a disgrace.

I ask the Minister to think about that. That is happening under the Government. A sum of €50 must be paid to the local authority to make an application for a shower. That requirement should be withdrawn. The person in question is in receipt of social welfare of €130 per week. That is a disgrace and the Minister should provide the €35 million which is required forthwith.

In terms of intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities, prioritisation is a key issue. From time to time Governments prioritise issues. The only Government in the past 20 years that in any meaningful way prioritised disabilities funding was the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats led Government – the record shows that. That over €555 million was spent since 1997 on expanding the range of services under disabilities is the classical illustration of that. While I understand and fully acknowledge the concerns of people in the disability sector, I find it hard to take some of the heckling and lectures from the opposite side of the House because, even though they were in office at a more difficult time, they did not give the same level of prioritisation—

Six years of posturing.

—as did the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government. It did so in a premeditative way, in a way that no other Government did, including Governments of my own colour.

This is 2003.

That is something which must be put on the record.

(Interruptions).

It was said that certain people of a political colour are ignoring disabilities and so on. It took a Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government to prioritise disability. It dealt with it in an unprecedented manner in terms of the level and scale of resources. The motion before us—

(Interruptions).

Allow the Minister to speak without interruption. He is entitled to the same courtesy as every other Member of the House.

The Minister is being provocative.

I did not interrupt anyone last evening.

I appreciate that.

I was here for 50 minutes last night, I heard all the contributions and I did not interrupt any Member. We are in a democratic Chamber and people should be entitled to put their views on the record.

In the motion before us and in the many of the contributions, there was talk of the long delayed disability Bill. I remember the heat generated and the pressure on the Government before last May not to go ahead with either the educational disability Bill or the—

Deputies

Why?

Allow the Minister to speak.

Let the Minister be; he is making a good enough case against himself.

Deputy Quinn, allow the Minister to make his contribution without interruption.

Let him bury himself.

The previous Government withdrew those Bills following public concerns which were articulated. An agreed process was entered into to develop a comprehensive public consultation process—

There is no agreement if there is no money.

—to produce new disability legislation. With respect, I did not interrupt Deputy Stagg—

I did not speak.

—or his colleagues.

A number of months ago we were told not to rush the legislation and that it was a disgrace and a scandal, etc., that we were rushing it through the House. Now we are being told it is a scandal that we are not delivering it even though we want to bring it to a consultation process. The disability Bill, as my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley, said, is being prioritised and there is a two-stranded consultation process in place involving public consultation.

There is no point prioritising it if there is no money.

There are fundamental issues, as we all know, in terms of—

(Interruptions).

Deputy Stagg, I will ask you to leave the House if you do not allow the Minister to make his contribution.

The fundamental issue about disability legislation is the degree to which one moves towards a rights-based template. That was the core issue. Sometimes we have not had an informed—

(Interruptions).

Minister, if you addressed your comments to the Chair, you might not invite interruptions.

I am just looking at those opposite. I do not mean to engage in a two-way process.

The main issue is whether one has a rights-based template. I do not believe we, in the political theatre, have had a proper informed debate about that. The simplistic response has always been to do whatever the rights-based approach suggests without looking at the consequences or the implications for the roll-out and the targeting of services or at who should get what.

If we brought in rights-based legislation tomorrow morning, we would be fooling people. We would be putting a template in front of them which the system, as we know it and irrespective of money, could not provide in terms of personnel and the multidisciplinary teams required to give the kind of one-to-one disability planning programmes necessary. We do not have disability planning programmes because over a ten or 15 year period, we did not provide for speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. For 30 years we had one school for speech and language therapy yet anyone in the disability sector will know that it is a key discipline we have lacked.

Why is the Minister not putting them in place?

This is the first Government to provide for a process to lead to additional training places for speech and language therapists, physiotherapist and occupational therapists. In the interim, we have been trying to recruit people from abroad to meet the gaps and deficiencies in place.

To come back to the disability legislation, there are key issues which need to be resolved. We made a contribution to the previous disability Bill in terms of the rights to assessment and so forth which should be in any disability Bill. I appeal for a decent debate as opposed to one which may appeal to simplistic political issues and be popular in terms of coming up with certain solutions which no Government, regardless of who was in power, went near. It is easier when one is on the Opposition benches to say what one wants.

Reference was made to the United States. I have been to the United States and have asked people about legislation there. It is important to strike the right balance. People in the disability sector there have said that the spectrum has broadened.

The Minister's time is up.

I have ten minutes.

Sorry, Deputy Stagg, the Chair will decide that. The Minister has 41 seconds remaining.

I thought I had ten minutes. In terms of the professionalisation of people involved with intellectual disabilities, particularly the house parent and assistant house person grades, we have moved on that and have made significant progress on that issue which has a sig nificant application for people in the intellectual disability sector.

In relation to the Drumcar situation which was raised, we have made progress on that and the health board concerned has reached agreement following talks between the Department, the health board and the order to facilitate the recruitment of an additional 30 personnel immediately and to enter into a process to implement the remainder of the posts. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley, had initiated talks between the Department, the health board and the order concerned.

The Minister's time has concluded.

I will obey the Chair unlike some Deputies opposite who were determined not to facilitate the Chair or me in making my contribution.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Rabbitte. I congratulate the Labour Party on moving this motion and thank Deputy Rabbitte for giving me a few minutes to speak.

In response to the Minister for Health and Children, the disability Bill introduced last year by the former Minister of State, Deputy Mary Wallace, could not have been brought in because, while it conferred rights, they could not be enforced. That Bill was completely and fatally flawed and everybody recognised that despite the fact that five years' work had gone into it.

We are debating the scandal of self-congratulation by Government and of scarcity of resources and services for people with disabilities. Parents of children with an intellectual disability, driven by desperation, demonstrated outside the Mansion House while the Taoiseach, as patron, attended the Irish launch of the European Year of People with Disabilities. Their dignified protest clearly made the point that the Government must not try to use the media opportunities to hide the fact there are major areas of outstanding need.

The second and related point they made concerns the coincidence of the EYPD with the fact that this Government, in office since 1997, has chosen this year not to improve the level of funding for disability services. The Taoiseach's patronage of the EYPD cannot be allowed to signal the Government's promotion of the big lie that all is well in relation to disability when nothing could be further from the truth. The point made by intellectual disability organisations on funding is equally applicable across the entire sector. There is still no national physical and sensory disability database concerning health and personal social service needs, despite it being a key recommendation of the report entitled Towards an Independent Future, published in 1996.

The parents of a child with a mental handicap face every day the painful reality that their child's quality of life will always be decided by other people. Far from being the beneficiary of a comprehensive and seamless service, the parents and families face a lifetime of struggle and delay. It is surely reprehensible that in this day and age, parents have to talk about rescuing their children from national institutions yet just two days ago, an Irish mother of an Irish child told The Irish Times about having to rescue her daughter who had autism from a psychiatric hospital wholly unsuitable to her needs. She rescued her after a temporary stay of eight years. Let us not kid ourselves; this is not a matter of just care. If we place people with special needs in institutions totally unsuited to their needs, never mind their human dignity, then what we have is a form of incarceration.

The other day I heard a woman say that not only could the carers of people with disabilities not live in peace, they could not even die in peace not knowing what will happen to their children after they are gone. I wonder what kind of statistical guff the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Health and Children or the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley, could come up with an answer to that.

A parent told the Forum on the Status of People with Disabilities a number of years ago that parents do not expect the State or society to take over their responsibilities. They are prepared to make whatever sacrifices are necessary but with the best will in the world, they cannot do so from beyond the grave. Imagine what it is like to lose a relative who is one's carer – one must go into residential care for the first time, even if that care is unsuitable to one's needs. One loses not just a mother or father but a home, surroundings, one's history, identity and one's entire way of life.

It seems that in 2003 we have regressed to a form of the survival of the fittest. There is no service for many. There is no hope this year of a place for young adults who leave special schools at 18. There is no safety net for those who need crisis intervention in the event of illness or incapacity of the primary carer. There is no chance of respite for many people who can never take a week away on a whim. Spending in this area is a matter of political choice. The Government has made its choice and others must live with the consequences. This is the gift of the Government to people with disabilities in what should be a special year for them. It makes the Special Olympics tag line, "Be happy for me", a travesty.

I thank colleagues on all sides of the House who contributed to the debate in the name of my colleague, Deputy Moynihan-Cronin. On 28 January last, I was one of a number of Members of this House who joined the protest at the Mansion House to which Deputy Kenny referred. The occasion was the launch of the European Year of People with Disabilities. It was a sad, solemn protest by people who travelled from all over Ireland, people who represented hundreds, if not thousands, of others.

The Taoiseach arrived for the event and refused on his way in to meet any of the protesters. Perhaps he was afraid, even though there was no reason for fear. More likely, he just had no answer for them. Later, I saw him on television news dismissing the people who had protested. He said that there were many more inside than outside. I was surprised. He knew these were representative bodies, each of them able to count dozens of organisations among their membership. If he had stopped to talk, he would have discovered that many of them were middle-aged working people and in some cases pensioners, who had come to Dublin to express their fear. They did not want to upset the celebrations for the European Year of the Disabled – they would like to have taken part in the celebrations. They want no part of division or disagreement with other people with disabilities.

There is a central fear at the heart of their protest –"what happens to my child when I die? How do I cope with my child when he or she still needs to be helped to do many of the things others take for granted and I am crippled with arthritis or otherwise unable to do the things I used to do? How, when I am elderly, do I cope with the shouting, suffering, violence, incontinence and emotional distress my child's disability causes? How do I make policy-makers understand my child will need help and support through the many years of my ageing?"

There are more basic needs. I know of one family where an accident at work led to traumatic brain injury. After months of treatment, the victim of the accident, a father, was discharged to the care of his family. Unable to speak, feed himself, dress, attend to his own bodily functions, this father became the exclusive responsibility of a wife and small children. A business that depended on his knowledge and skill fell apart. His wife had to give up work and subsist on a carer's allowance. The small additional income the family received from a property meant they were ineligible for a medical card. Before long, the mother of this family had to choose on a weekly basis between what medication she could afford for her husband and what food she could afford for her children. This situation lasted for two years before a place could be found in a residential centre. By then, the accident, and the way our system had responded to it, had destroyed the lives and spirit of two people almost beyond repair.

That is just one story. At every level, disability causes hardship and pain. I know a man who has lived most of his life in a wheelchair. He will tell you that one of the most distressing things that can happen is when he is told, "Your wheelchair is too big for you to come in here." It is never, "Our doorway is too narrow." He is held responsible. This is a man who has never spent time with his children on a beach in Ireland because there is no beach he knows of accessible from a wheelchair. Deputy Power spoke very movingly about our experience in the House, yet when we put our minds to it, it took us three days to make these rooms accessible.

Because there are so many different forms of disability and because it affects life in so many ways, the response of Government and the community must be multifaceted. A previous Government appointed my colleague, former Deputy Mervyn Taylor to a Cabinet position to take responsibility for equality legislation and considerable progress was made. He established the Commission on the Status of People with a Disability under the chair of Mr. Justice Flood, the first time such a body had ever been created in Ireland with a majority of members having a disability.

The commission made 402 recommendations, many of which have been implemented in one form or other in the intervening years. Its core recommendation, however, has been at the heart of the disability movement's struggle ever since. Recommendation 43 states: "It is the Commission's view that in relation to each person with a disability the following system should be in place: there should be a new Assessment of Needs process, underpinned by law, with the adequate arrangements made for its enforcement and monitoring and for an appeals procedure, and it should lead to a statement of needs." The Government elected in 1997 downgraded the Cabinet-level position and appointed former Minister of State, Deputy Mary Wallace, to take responsibility for this area. She, in turn, in January 2000, published Towards Equal Citizenship, a booklet which held itself out as a review of the progress made towards implementing the recommendations of the commission. Unlike the commission, the review was carried out primarily by civil servants and experts.

When the review body examined recommendation 43, the bombshell dropped. This is what the report says about the legal entitlement to assessment and a statement of needs:

The Department of Finance cannot accept these recommendations which imply the underpinning by law of access to and provision of services for people with disabilities as a right. This right, if given a statutory basis, would be prohibitively expensive for the Exchequer and could lead to requests from other persons seeking access to health and other services without regard to the eventual cost of providing these services.

Put simply, the Department of Finance, then and now, sees people with disabilities as some sort of appalling vista. Any concept of rights for people with disabilities will bankrupt the State. Any notion that a woman with a brain-injured husband should have an automatic right to support is a threat to our national security. The idea that a father should be able to take his wheelchair on to a beach is somehow seditious.

If that is true, is it not natural for the State and the Government to ignore the needs and rights of people who have all the barriers that intellectual disability can place in their way? Is it not natural for the Government to tell people with disabilities, as it did in this year's budget, that they can wait for the charity of the dormant accounts fund whenever it is established? Of course, this is not true. If we were to introduce a comprehensive set of rights for people with disabilities, it would not bankrupt the State. It would challenge the system to respond appropriately, and it would not be before time.

Tonight, we are not even discussing a comprehensive set of rights, we are discussing, as my colleague, Deputy Moynihan-Cronin said, a pittance, help where it is desperately needed. No one can convince me that a Government that has turned in a massive current budget surplus this year and that is projecting equally massive surpluses on the current side cannot to give some help. The amount of money being sought in this motion is almost meaningless in terms of the national Exchequer, although a lot could be done to make the lives of individuals better and lessen the fear associated with disability.

The Minister in the debate compared the amount the Government spent with the amount spent by previous Governments. I do not argue with that. No previous Government ever did enough. However, this Government and its predecessor are the first in the history of the State to be able to make unfettered choices. The Government can choose to plough almost €64 million into the horse and greyhound racing fund. It can choose to spend €67 million on new prison buildings and services, €60 million on harbour development, €217 million on the eradication of disease among farm animals and more than €1,000 million on improving the road network – I could go on. I do not regard most of the payments I have mentioned as wasteful and unnecessary, as many of the areas make a vital contribution to society. The expenditure in these areas, however, compared to the meagre spending on disability shows where our priorities lie.

Hear, hear.

My colleague, Deputy Moynihan-Cronin, finished her contribution to this debate by saying: "The best test of a civilised society is surely to be found in how it protects those who are vulnerable, how it enables those who have barriers to overcome, how it listens to those who have no voice." This Government is failing the test in this area and in many others.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

The Government should have the decency to withdraw the amendment.

It should withdraw it.

Amendment put.

Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, Barry.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Seamus.Browne, John.Callanan, Joe.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Carty, John.Cassidy, Donie.Collins, Michael.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Coughlan, Mary.Cregan, John.Cullen, Martin.Curran, John.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Noel.Dempsey, Tony.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Finneran, Michael.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Fleming, Seán.Gallagher, Pat The Cope.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Hoctor, Máire.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.

Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McDaid, James.McEllistrim, Thomas.McGuinness, John.Martin, Micheál.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Mulcahy, Michael.Nolan, M. J.Ó Cuív, Éamon.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donoghue, John.O'Donovan, Denis.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.Parlon, Tom.Power, Seán.Roche, Dick.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.

Níl

Boyle, Dan.Breen, James.Broughan, Thomas P.Bruton, Richard.Burton, Joan.Connolly, Paudge.Costello, Joe.Cowley, Jerry.Crawford, Seymour.Crowe, Seán.Cuffe, Ciarán.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.Durkan, Bernard J.Enright, Olwyn.Fox, Mildred.Gilmore, Eamon.Gogarty, Paul.Gormley, John.Gregory, Tony.Harkin, Marian.Hayes, Tom.Healy, Seamus.

Healy-Rae, Jackie.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael D.Hogan, Phil.Howlin, Brendan.Kehoe, Paul.Kenny, Enda.Lynch, Kathleen.McCormack, Padraic.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Finian.McGrath, Paul.McHugh, Paddy.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Olivia.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Keeffe, Jim. O'Shea, Brian.

Níl–continued

O'Sullivan, Jan.Pattison, Seamus.Penrose, Willie.Perry, John.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.

Sherlock, Joe.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Twomey, Liam.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Stagg and Durkan.
Amendment declared carred.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."

Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, Barry.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Seamus.Browne, John.Callanan, Joe.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Carty, John.Cassidy, Donie.Collins, Michael.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Coughlan, Mary.Cregan, John.Cullen, Martin.Curran, John.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Noel.Dempsey, Tony.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Finneran, Michael.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Fleming, Seán.Gallagher, Pat The Cope.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Hoctor, Máire.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.

Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McDaid, James.McEllistrim, Thomas.McGuinness, John.Martin, Micheál.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Mulcahy, Michael.Nolan, M. J.Ó Cuív, Éamon.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donoghue, John.O'Donovan, Denis.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.Parlon, Tom.Power, Seán.Roche, Dick.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.

Níl

Boyle, Dan.Breen, James.Broughan, Thomas P.Bruton, Richard.Burton, Joan.Connolly, Paudge.Costello, Joe.Cowley, Jerry.Crawford, Seymour.Crowe, Seán.Cuffe, Ciarán.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.Durkan, Bernard J.Enright, Olwyn.Fox, Mildred.Gilmore, Eamon.Gogarty, Paul.Gormley, John.Gregory, Tony.Harkin, Marian.Hayes, Tom.Healy, Seamus. Healy-Rae, Jackie.

Níl–continued

Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael D.Hogan, Phil.Howlin, Brendan.Kehoe, Paul.Lynch, Kathleen.McCormack, Padraic.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Finian.McGrath, Paul.McHugh, Paddy.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Olivia.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.O'Dowd, Fergus.

O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Pattison, Seamus.Penrose, Willie.Perry, John.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Sherlock, Joe.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Twomey, Liam.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Stagg and Durkan.
Question declared carried.