As many of my colleagues have said Fianna Fáil will be supporting the Motion on the rights of people of what I like to describe as having varying degrees of ability.

On entering this House one of the first discussions I had with the Ceann Comhairle centred around taking disability and its issues and that if this Dáil were to achieve anything it would be to put right those rights of the many thousands in our communities who struggle on a daily basis for services and basic rights and respect.

How many times in this chamber have I and others raised the issue of the withdrawal of the mobility allowance and how many times have the Government said that they are in the process of rectifying it yet we are still waiting.

This evening I want to address what I see as one of the main first steps in recognising people’s rights in the disability sector.

Every county and health board area collectively should be instructed to compile a complete database of all those classified with disability.  Local Authorities and Health Boards should appoint an Advocacy Officer who would act as a One Stop Shop for families seeking services for their loved ones. As it is they are being passed from Billy to Jack.

The second frustration that I am experiencing with the many disability organisations in my area including the Friends of People with Disability Dundalk, is the lack of communication on issues such as service availability, the prospect of Independent Living, and how the main focus appears to be on de-congregation of those with disability currently in institutions, with a failure to deliver for those which to live independently with proper service supports.  It has always been my contention throughout my public life that many of the elderly parents of sons and daughters with disability want some security and peace of mind going forward that assures them that their loved ones will be looked after properly after their day.

You will be aware that I and many of my colleagues have raised the issue in this House of lack of respite services for my county of Louth.  Indeed, the one of the only respite services available at present is at St. John of Gods at Drumcar, which I have heard is due to be closed.  While I compliment the service that they have been providing and in addition the service at The Marie Goretti Foundation in Cooley needs to be lauded.  The real issue in respite centers around proper planned managed respite that give families that real break that they need but also the provision of emergency respite when needed.

Local Authorities and the Housing Bodies should be obliged to have a ten year strategy on the number of houses to be bought or constructed to cater for those based on the audit of disabilities that I mentioned at the outset.

Issues that have also been raised with me relate to security and health & safety in respect of the care provided in many of the disability day care centres.  While I appreciate the good work that is carried out at the day care centres there is a need for better quality activities to be provided to stimulate the clients which could involve the Educational Training Boards to a greater degree.

In the last few weeks, I have heard of many shortcomings in the delivery of services, some shocking ones, including a 48 year old client having inadvertently being left in a locked bus for 4 hours.  I have heard of instances of poor security of clients leaving a service provider’s premises, the excuse being given that these people are adults who can’t be restrained, but surely a fob system could be used.

The ratification is a welcome step in the important journey towards equality but we need actions and not mere words.