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State must help us say survivors of Thalidomide

THALIDOMIDE survivor Mary Duffy was born without arms.

So she delivered a letter by foot to Taoiseach Brian Cowen yesterday in a bid to secure an apology -- half a century after the drugs scandal.

The Wicklow artist was joined by three other survivors who suffered shortened limbs after their mothers were prescribed the drug in the early 1960s.

The group from the Irish Thalidomide Association are demanding a personal meeting with Mr Cowen to ask him to follow the lead of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose government last week apologised to victims and agreed to pay them £20m compensation.

Some 32 Thalidomide survivors here are suffering increasing health problems almost 50 years after the drug was licensed in the State.

"I have used my body in ways it was never meant to be used and it has come at a cost," Mary said. "The Department of Health promised we would have access to all the aids we needed, but it's not forthcoming."

Maggie Woods (48), a FAS supervisor from Galway, said: "My limbs are deteriorating. My neck has got weaker and I have a lot of neck and shoulder pain."

She faces a struggle to work and pay her mortgage without compensation. "We need the Government to stop avoiding its obligations," she said.

Tommy Burbage, a barman from Portarlington, Co Laois, said: "I presumed my life expectancy would be 21. I'm doing the the best I can. Help me out."

The Department of Health said it is awaiting a report on the thalidomide from the State Claims Agency. A spokesman for Mr Cowen said the Taoiseach would "consider" the letter.

Irish Independent