'We matter' - protests call for more respite and care packages
Hundreds of disability rights protesters united to protest outside the Dáil, calling for better access to homecare packages and respite care.
The group, many of whom were in wheelchairs and some with profound disabilities, defied heavy rain to gather on Kildare Street and deliver a message to politicians loud and clear, that "disability discrimination" will not be tolerated.
Maria Elena Costa Sa, from the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) in Clontarf, Dublin, said they decided to protest after they found discrepancies in respite and homecare packages.
"We're here today for the adults not able to access respite and homecare from the State," she told the Irish Independent.
"It's not clear how these entitlements are being given out. It's very arbitrary. One person might be accessing these services and another not."
Two women who attend CRC Clontarf in north Dublin, Linda Ahern (62) and Fiona O'Reilly (52), were the main architects of the protest.
Both women, who have multiple sclerosis and use wheelchairs, remember well what life was like before they were diagnosed and they see the difference in how people with disabilities are treated compared to the able-bodied.
"I was a sales adviser at Debenhams on Henry Street in Dublin, I was so independent," Ms O'Reilly, from Walkinstown, said. "I went on holidays all round the world.
"Then I collapsed and was diagnosed with MS six years ago. I had to give up work.
"I lost all that life I had. I needed help and I discovered I wasn't able to access all the assistance I needed.
"I get 28 hours a week homecare. I have two carers, who use a hoist to get me out of bed in the morning. But I need more hours."
Ms O'Reilly said her elderly parents, Jimmy (80) and Olive (79), have to fill the gaps where there isn't enough care.
"My dad has to hoist me onto the loo - this is a man of 80 years old, who suffers bad backs. My parents are older people, risking injury to help their daughter where I should be getting more support from the HSE."
Vicky Matthew (44) left her home in Ballyshannon in Co Donegal at 5am to travel to Dublin for the protest.
A wheelchair user, the mother of two is "terrified" the HSE will cut her personal assistant hours.
She is planning to go to college in September but received a phone call from the HSE recently.
"They told me they wanted to carry out a review. I'm terrified they will cut my personal assistant hours. I have 11 hours a week and that helps me maintain an independent life," she said.
Another wheelchair user, Connie Richardson (45) from Walkinstown, Dublin, said she felt people with disabilities are discriminated against. "Everything I need I have to really fight for, respite, personal assistants, everything is red tape. And it's not good enough. This is our lives and we matter," she said.