Campaigners launch three-day street protest over cuts to disability services
A group of disabled people and campaigners have launched a three-day sit-out at the gates of Government Buildings to highlight cuts to services over seven years of austerity.
The street protest - a rerun of a 2012 vigil sparked by reductions for personal assistant allowances - was organised to raise awareness of the 160 million euro which has been slashed from services since 2008.
Protesters have vowed to remain on the street for 72 hours.
Martin Naughton, one of the organisers, said the treatment of people with disabilities, including in residential centres around the country, "invokes a heady mix of emotions of anger and rage".
"We have been patient, we have waited for the delivery of many promises and proposals, crumbs from the budget table, but today Ireland's 600,000 people with disabilities and their families are at breaking point," he said.
"We are calling on the Government to listen to the voices of people with disabilities and our families who want support services to be redirected so that we can live independently in our homes, in our local communities, with dignity. We can no longer be ignored."
The protesters are demanding 300 million euro is invested in disability services through the upcoming budget.
The street demonstration was organised in the last fortnight and sparked by repeated reports from the health watchdog about conditions and treatment of disabled people, particularly those living in care homes.
Mr Naughton said some of the audits were "appalling and alarming" and called for action to bring about lasting change for people who are "continuing to live as second-class citizens".
The People with Disabilities group claimed more than 68% of people who use disability services endure poor quality and are very dissatisfied and that in the last two years 93% of disability residential centres inspected by the Health Information and Quality Authority have failed some standards.
The campaign also highlighted other areas the Government must address to support people with disabilities to help them lead free, independent lives.
Mr Naughton called for the introduction of direct payments, self-directed living supports and the protection of personal assistants with a move away from residential care and congregated settings where possible.
The campaign also said 8,000 people with disabilities live in residential centres, 1,000 people under 27 live in long-term care including nursing homes, while mo re than 13,000 children and adults are awaiting assessment for speech and language therapy and 7,000 people were on waiting lists for urgent occupational therapy last year.