Tuesday 6 December 2016

Brendan O'Connor's words on lack of disability services on Late Late Show spark massive outpouring of support

Geraldine Gittens

Published 14/05/2016 | 08:38

Brendan O'Connor on the Late Late Show
Brendan O'Connor on the Late Late Show

Sunday Independent columnist Brendan O’Connor's powerful words on last night’s Late Late Show about caring for a child with Down Syndrome has sparked a massive outpouring of support.

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The writer and broadcaster told host Ryan Tubridy how one of his daughters Mary (5) has Down Syndrome, and she needs extra support services like speech therapy.

He said the lack of support in Ireland for people who have disabilities will cause Ireland to be called an "inhumane culture" in 20 years time.

“We don’t have huge problems with Mary, she’s a great kid,” he told Tubridy.

“I never expected this to happen in our family. And when it happened I thought, OK this is it: our lives ruined."

But he said: “It doesn’t make you 'other', it doesn’t make you different.”

“The reality is, and it’s terribly upsetting, the reality is that people like my daughter are, it’s all very well that we look at them, and go ‘aren’t they great’ but as a society the way we treat them is appalling.”

“We will look back on how we treat these children now and we will go that was an inhumane culture we lived in.”

Read More: Brendan O'Connor: Happy birthday to my baby girl Mary

Mr O'Connor said he considers his family lucky because they live close to available services in Dublin, but for many around the country, it's a very different story.

“If you knew the struggle that mothers [go through], there is a lot of extra work involved there, there is a lot of pain involved there as well.”

“To lump on top of that then for these women, and it is mainly women, you do nothing to help them, to help the kids have some coping skills in life. There is nothing. There is less and less out there all the time. Talk to any parent.”

“There are people down the country driving hours to try and get to a bit of physiotherapy, a bit of speech therapy if they can get it at all.”

He said his daughter was cut off from state services largely when she reached a certain age, because she has mild Down Syndrome.

He said 15,000 children were waiting for an assessment of needs in Ireland at the end of 2015.

"Imagine if one of your girls couldn't talk to you and couldn't express what's going on with themselves to you. Imagine them going out in the world and they can't be understood by anyone."

"[Being able to speak] is your window on the world."

"There are 15,000 kids just waiting to get an assessment... some of them are waiting two years to get an assessment. You don't have two years for a kid who needs help with speaking... then you get the assessment and it doesn't matter because the services aren't there anyway."

Viewers took to Twitter last night to lend their support to Mr O'Connor's words.

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