"ENOUGH is enough". That was the rallying cry that brought more than 500 people on to the streets of Mallow last Friday to protest against proposed cuts to special needs funding in the forthcoming budget.
With funding for COPE slashed by €40,000 a week since January, the parents of children availing of their services in Mallow and those of the St Joseph's Foundation in Charleville, fear that further cuts could see some of those services seriously compromised.
The protest march, the first of many expected to take part in towns and cities across the country, was organised by the Munster Parents of Children/Adults with Intellectual Disabilities.
Protestors delivered letters to the offices of Deputy Tom Barry and Junior Minister Sean Sherlock, urging them to use their positions within Dail Eireann to fight any proposed cuts.
March co-organiser Geraldine Buckley, whose 17-year-old son Jason is a student at COPE's Scoil Bernadette, said that the turnout was higher than had been expected.
"I think that showed the genuine fear and concern among people about what is happening and the seeming indifference that the government is showing to the people who depend on bodies such as COPE and St Joseph's," said Geraldine.
"While the protest may have done little to ease our immediate concerns, the number of people who joined us and who wished us well as we passed through the town proved the people of North Cork are behind us," she added.
Geraldine said the Mallow protest was deliberately silent as many of the children taking part would have been sensitive to loud noise.
More than 100 protestors from Mallow will be among thousands of people who will now take their case to the gates of Leinster House on Wednesday, November 21.