I congratulate all the newly appointed Ministers of State and extend my sympathies to those who did not make it as there are quite a number of them.
Two weeks ago, around 26 organisations working in the disability and caring sector lost funding under the scheme to support national organisations, SSNO, that funds community and voluntary organisations. This has been a devastating blow. All 11 organisations in the Neurological Alliance of Ireland lost their funding, for example, and the total lost across all 26 organisations is €1.2 million. These organisations support people enduring very rare conditions, such as those inherited genetically and so on. The Irish Deaf Society had to close its deaf advocacy services and the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association closed its front-line visitor programme. Chronic Pain Ireland faces closure in less than 12 months, MS Ireland will lose its information, advocacy and research officer, the Alzheimer's Society of Ireland will not be able to put in place early intervention services for people with dementia and the Huntington's Disease Association of Ireland has been forced to end direct front-line services, such as counselling, equipment and carer meetings, due to loss of core funding. The Huntington's Disease Association of Ireland received €22,000 per year through this scheme but the Government has cut this. Huntington's Disease is a rare, degenerative condition and this is an appalling act by the Taoiseach and the Government. Muscular Dystrophy Ireland's front-line facilities manager post cannot now be filled and the Irish Heart Foundation's stroke action community support programme will be severely curtailed.
In The Irish Times today Fintan O'Toole's column described this action by the Government as simply crass stupidity. It is difficult to disagree with him. Many other organisations that help volunteers to help people with rare conditions have been affected. When elected as leader of the Labour Party, the Tánaiste, Deputy Burton, said we govern perhaps too much with the head and not enough with the heart. This decision reveals to me that this Government governs with neither the head nor the heart. Will the Taoiseach intervene to ensure €1.2 million, at least, is restored to the organisations concerned? They have suffered too much already and there is no justification for this.