Children affected by cuts deliver message
THE reality of planned cuts to special needs assistants was spelled out to Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe yesterday -- as he came face-to-face with children who will be affected.
The announcement last week that 227 special needs assistants (SNAs) would be cut, in line with a decision by the previous government, prompted hundreds to protest outside the Dail.
Mr Kehoe came under fire from staff and parents of a large primary school in his native Wexford -- which is going to lose six of its 27 SNAs in September.
But the most eloquent contribution was from a pupil who is set to lose his assistant.
"I want my SNA back. If I don't have her, I'll be scared," Mike O'Leary (11) told Mr Kehoe.
His mother Helene said that her son was not able to "cross the road on his own" and would not be able to manage in a mainstream primary school class without an SNA.
"We're in difficult economic circumstances. I will do my level best to have the SNAs re-instated," Mr Kehoe said.
He was told by Lisa Kelly, one of the SNAs losing her job in St Senan's school in Enniscorthy, that the Government would not save much money as a result.
"I get €400-a-week and when I'm laid off, I'm going to be claiming dole and all the benefits I'm entitled to," she said.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has said that, due to the current state of the public finances, he cannot reverse the decision to place a cap on the number of SNA jobs.