'Just keep repeating the lie, Brendan'

Ministers turn deaf ears to phone-in

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Shame medical cards are being cut back because it sounds like Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin could do with urgent treatment for their serious hearing problems.

By Shaun Connolly, Political Correspondent

The prickly pair came across like Deaf and Deafer as they failed to answer the questions put to them by the victims of their cuts in the traditional post-budget phone-in on RTÉ.

Clearly, they would not qualify for a medical card as they pay themselves more each year, in a country the same size as Manchester, than David Cameron receives for running Britain.

But it was less clear why Stella from Galway had the medical cards for her sons snatched away after years of state help. Referring to Mr Noonan's lofty claim that all the children of nation should be "cherished equally" as he announced the medical card con trick that sees under-fives get free GP visits while support for up to 100,000 others is stripped away, Stella gave the ministers an insight into what their dry statistics and dismissive denials of cutbacks mean in people's real lives.

"I have twin boys, both of whom have lost their medical card in the last month. Both of them have cerebral palsy. One is quadriplegic, that is he is without the use of his arms or legs, the other has autism and mild cerebral palsy with intellectual disabilities. They both require 24-hour care; both are in nappies.

"Now can you tell me where the signal is there that you cherish my children as equally as the under fives when I have to struggle and come on air to look for the medical card for them?"

The deaf duo told Stella that she was wrong. It was an "individual" case. There had been no change in policy to limit medical cards.

Funny how there seems to be an avalanche of these "individual" cases appearing just as the chaos in the HSE budget forces a €666m cuts frenzy. As host Sean O'Rourke pointed to the flood of such "individual" medical card cut cases exposed by the Irish Examiner, Stella cut through the crap coming from the cabinet ministers and asked about her boys: "There obviously is a change. If anything our income has gone down. So why were they entitled to it for the past 10 years and now, all of a sudden, they don't qualify?"

But public expenditure minister Howlin again told Stella she was wrong: "There is no change. The number of medical cards is increasing," he flatly informed her.

Yes, what does Stella know about it Mr Howlin? She's just the mother-of- two seriously challenged children who have been cut adrift by your Government.

It was the same kind of arrogance on display that saw a senior Government official dismiss the outcry over the withdrawal of the €850 bereavement grant because grieving families just use it as "beer money". The budget message from the radio was clear: Stella, and all the other people like her, can go sort themselves out, because this Government has washed its hands of them — there's "no change" in policy in that regard, at least.

The dialogue of the deaf continues.


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