SENATOR Jennifer Murnane O’Connor believes health minister Simon Harris “should be ashamed of himself” for ignoring the situation facing children who attend both Holy Angels and the Tír na nÓg respite centre.
Speaking in the Seanad last week, senator Murnane O’Connor addressed the issue of Holy Angels Day Care Centre and its urgent need for a new premises, as well as the closure of Tír na nÓg last December. The meeting was attended by minister for state at the department of health Finian McGrath.
“These are the most vulnerable children in our society and they have been forgotten,” said Ms Murnane O’Connor.
“There are 35 children in the Holy Angels from 18 months up to six years with a waiting list of 20-plus. At the moment, the roof is leaking, the doors need to be fixed and the flooring needs to be replaced,” she stated.
“They are waiting 11 years for the capital funding for their new school. They have been overlooked for years. And now they are at a stage where they can’t expand, they can’t take the children that need to attend the school. They have gone from a basement of an old hospital to prefabs − and they are still in prefabs 38 years on…this is 2016,” fumed the Carlow-based senator.
The Fianna Fáil representative added that Holy Angels has “a great manager and staff, with a great fundraising committee, who have been fundraising in order to help with the build of the new school, which has an estimated cost of €4m”.
“After 11 years, they need to receive their capital funding that was already committed to them. After 38 years, it is no longer acceptable that children with special needs are in prefabs,” she said.
Senator Murnane O’Connor also raised the issue of the Tír na nÓg facility, which closed in December 2015, despite being used by 42 children for weekend respite services, with a waiting list of more than 30. In March of this year, in order to fulfil the desperate need, an alternative day respite was set up, which provides respite three weekends a month.
“We have no emergency respite or no overnight respite in Carlow or Kilkenny, and also only ten children are using this service, where 42 were using the Tír na nÓg respite house, with 30 on the waiting list. This is not acceptable,” she told the minister.
“Minister, could you look at combining the building of the two facilities together if that would cut down on cost because we need to get this sorted as soon as possible,” she concluded.
Following the senator’s 12-minute speech in the Seanad, a meeting with the minister for health and the stakeholders from both Holy Angels and Tír na nÓg has been arranged for the coming weeks.