Wednesday 21 March 2018

'I thought that Enda Kenny was going to be a legend . . . Not anymore'

Barry Duggan, Michael Brennan and Ralph Riegel

A GIRL who was born with no arms or legs says she feels betrayed after the Taoiseach reneged on a commitment not to take money from the disabled.

Joanne O'Riordan (15) met Enda Kenny canvassing in her home town of Millstreet, Co Cork, last February before the general election.

The Fine Gael leader assured her he would not be taking any money off people with disabilities in this year's Budget. "We want that protected," he told her. After hearing that the Government has temporarily stalled plans to slash disability benefits for young people, Ms O'Riordan said it was not good enough.

"We want clarification that cuts will not happen. Fair enough, it won't be touched now, but we have to wait and see," she said.

She described the proposed cuts as "cruel" and issued a message to Mr Kenny. "The next time, do not tell people like me something that you are not going to do. In the end, they actually wanted to do this (impose cutbacks) -- the opposite of what I was told last February.

She admitted she was optimistic when Mr Kenny became Taoiseach.

"I went back to school and was delighted thinking Enda Kenny would not put in more cutbacks. He was going to be a legend. Last night though, it was no, he is not a legend anymore," Ms O'Riordan said.

"When Fine Gael and Enda were elected, we kind of hoped it would be a change like Barack Obama. But in the end it wasn't really Barack Obama -- it was a slap on the face.

"Now he has gone back on his word. It is kind of like we are stabbed in the back. I feel betrayed. It was unexpected," she added.

"Michael Noonan stood up and said disability would be cut and we were all sitting there in total shock looking at him. I said: 'Are you actually joking.'

"Disabled people have a voice, but are not listened to. You have to shout out louder to make sure you are heard. That is what myself and my brother, Steve (pictured above), are trying to do -- make sure the people with disabilities are heard," Ms O'Riordan added.

The transition year student at Millstreet Community College, who hopes to become a journalist, is one of just seven people in the world born without all four limbs.

Ms O'Riordan said her family campaigned strongly for the Fine Gael party before the general election. "In three years' time I can vote, so maybe I might have to change and see who is the better option," she added.

Irish Independent

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