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Former Health Minister James Reilly breaks down during emotional radio interview with Ray D'Arcy

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James Reilly

James Reilly

James Reilly

An emotional former Health Minister James Reilly broke down when discussing his son during an interview with Ray D'Arcy.

His son Jamie was brought up in the interview during a discussion about children with serious illnesses. Jamie was diagnosed with autism at the age of three.

The Fine Gael TD for Dublin North, who is now Minister for Children, appeared on the 'Ray D'Arcy Show' on RTE Radio One earlier today.

He had been discussing his career and tenure as Minister for Health with the broadcaster.

He said he was happy with his record in office - but added "some things went badly wrong" before singling out the taking of discretionary medical cards from children with long-term illnesses.

He described this issue as "the one that really upsets me the most".

"I had no real choice because of the money situation we found ourselves in. I mean, having said that, I never thought that's where I'd end up as minister and as a parent of a child with a disability, taking cards off children with a disability," he told Ray.

The broadcaster said it struck him, from previous interviews with politicians, that ministers don't have much power.

"Well you have a certain amount of power but choices are difficult," Mr Reilly said.

"I'm very glad that situation was rectified before I left in terms that it stopped and we put a stop on it."

He said they couldn't come up with a system to give medical cards for people with illnesses because, he said, the review group advised them that they couldn't "make a hierarchy in illnesses".

D'Arcy then mentioned that Mr Reilly has previously spoken as a father of a child with autism.

"Yes, he is a fabulous young man," Mr Reilly said.

The presenter said Mr Reilly could empathy with parents of children affected by illnesses..

"I hope I can hold it together for this," Mr Reilly said as his voice faltered.

"I sat at the end of the bed and I still remember, I suppose, both me and my wife as we looked at our beautiful boy, [we] thought his future was gone. But thankfully we were wrong and the one message I would give to parents is let nobody set a limit on your child's horizon," Mr Reilly said as he briefly broke down.

"We were told that he was mentally handicapped. We were advised not to worry.

"Now my wife, I don't know if you know her, is a very determined lady.

"We got him assessed in England. We were told he did have autism. The mistake made by the psychologist was that he used a verbal tool to assess a non verbal child. And, you know, when he started talking at five, the doors started opening.

"He went to normal school when he was 11 and he's progressed from there. He got an honours degree in Trinity, a masters in biotechnology and he's studying for a PhD in Autism and Stem Cell research."

Mr Reilly agreed with D'Arcy that as a doctor, he might be in a more fortunate position than other parents.

However, he said could relate to parents who fear their child is not progressing as well as they could be due to a lack of services.

"All children have a different potential" and the government "must maximise supports" to allow such children reach their full potential, he said.

Online Editors