Enda Kenny backpedals on disability cuts in austerity budget
Joanne O'Riordan inspires Irish government to do a u-turn
Joanne O’Riordan, a totally limbless teenage girl with the heart of a lion, persuaded the Irish government to do a U-turn on its budget pledge to slash disability benefits for young people.
The embarrassing U-turn was forced on Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny when the day after last week’s budget it was revealed he had promised 15-year-old Joanne in his pre-election campaign last January that he would not touch the disability allowance.
Within hours of the budget decision to axe the allowances, footage of Kenny’s pledge to Joanne was on the Internet, placed there by her brother Stephen, a 27-year-old documentary television filmmaker.
Disability allowance was due to be cut for under-18s and slashed from €188 to €100 for 18 to 21-year-olds and from €188 to €144 for 22 to 24-year-olds. Rates for under-25s cared for by a qualified adult also faced reductions.
During a radio interview by government ministers defending their budget, Stephen went on air and he fought back tears as he criticized them for bailing out the banks and paying un-guaranteed bondholders while a verbal promise to his sister that disability benefits would not be touched was broken.
“All our lives my family and myself have fought for my sister to live an independent life, and that money would have helped my sister to go on to a third level education,” Stephen said.
In the face of public outrage, a humbled Kenny told the Dail (Parliament) that disability allowances to new claimants as young as 16 would not now be cut.
“The government doesn’t get everything right all the time. There’s an issue here that is of great sensitivity and we’re reviewing it on that basis,” he said.
Joanne, who lives in Millstreet, Co. Cork, and was born with no legs or arms, is one of just seven people in the world who suffers with a rare condition known as total amelia. She also has scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. None of this fazes her.
She is a bubbly transition year student at her local school and a Gaelic games fan who has laughed off all the plaudits she has received from disability groups and opposition politicians.
She told the Irish Daily Mail, “Please don’t call me an inspiration. This isn’t about me anyway.
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