Local TDs appeal for ‘12 more months’ so that solution can be found
Despite pleas from local TDs in the Dáil yesterday (Wednesday) for a pause on the decision to close Cuisle, Minister of State for Disabilities Finian McGrath provided little hope that the centre in Donamon would remain open beyond the end of this month.
Independent TD Denis Naughten had said the local community would not accept “under any circumstances the removal of equipment that was fundraised by the local community and through the Exchequer”.
“We would plead with you that there is an extension of 12 months to allow us to put a solution in place,” he added, a plea that was echoed by Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy and Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.
Minister McGrath, however, reiterated the HSE policy to move away from congregated services to holidays and respite at accessible hotels from next March.
“The IWA has the ethos of delivering services that respond to the wishes of its members. The new service will be located in accessible hotels in the Galway area and the midlands. The IWA are in the final stages of the procurement process and will soon be able to announce the exact locations,” he said in response to concerns raised over staff and service users during Topical Issues yesterday.
He added: “I’m aware the issues raised today will have an impact on service users with high dependency and this will require complete clarification.
“I have instructed the HSE officials that this happens in consultation with the Irish Wheelchair Association. I will come back to the relevant members with the results of this in coming days. I will give a commitment that solutions (raised by local public representatives) will be put on the table”.
Deputies Naughten, Murphy and Fitzmaurice had raised a number of issues with the Minister including a perceived lack of consultation; the number of ‘bed nights’ available to service users going forward, and what was described as the “disgraceful” treatment of Cuisle staff, who had been left with “minimal” opportunities for redeployment.
Deputy Naughten said the decision went against previous statements by the Irish Wheelchair Association and would leave service users without a respite service for five months.
“In 2018 the Irish Wheelchair Association wrote to the councillors of Roscommon County Council. That letter read: ‘Our facilities resemble that of a hotel and include 34 ensuite twin and double bedrooms, the Castle restaurant, Harry’s Bar, leisure suite and gyms’. That does not look to me like Cuisle is an ‘institution’.
“Back then, BDO set out a business plan for the tourism development of that facility and yet now the IWA are saying that it’s not viable,” he said.
Deputy Eugene Murphy said the decision should be reversed.
“We need to get this decision reversed and we need to understand that lots of people use this facility….this is disgraceful carry-on from a body that’s after getting €40 million with your help over the last year”.
Deputy Fitzmaurice said that with the willingness of the local community and the assistance of the Divine Word Missionaries, a solution could be found.
“I would ask you Minister to intervene to make sure those jobs are safe.
“I would ask you to talk to the head of the IWA to make sure there’s a pause put on this and that plans can be put in place for the benefit of everyone, especially the wheelchair users that use the facility,” he said.