16 March 2005 Edition

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O'Hara case shows dire need for autism services

The return of the O'Hara children to their parents in County Meath has been welcomed by Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health and Children, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD.

After the five children, four of them with autism, were taken into care, Ó Caoláin raised the issue in the Dáil and highlighted the fact that many families were now living in fear of such a scenario, because the lack of services means families are struggling to cope.

Ó Caoláin said the O'Hara children had been taken by the Health Service Executive "because the family had clearly indicated to the media that it was finding it difficult to cope in the absence of State support and resourcing".

The Cavan/Monaghan TD asked the Taoiseach if he realised that "many thousands of families throughout the State are now afraid to highlight openly the difficulties they are wrestling with".

Ó Caoláin pointed out that there has not been any substantial change since the publication in October 2001 of the report of the task force on autism. That report said the State is 'critically unable to meet the needs of children with autistic spectrum disorders in Ireland'.

He called on the Taoiseach to agree "the Government is duty-bound to rectify the disgraceful neglect of decades and to provide these children and their families with all the resources they need".

Just recently, the five Sinn Féin TDs used their private members time in Leinster House to address the issue of education for children with special needs. Their motion received the support of all the opposition parties.

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