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Minister ignores plight of deaf children in Budget

John and Allison McFadden with their daughter Taylor Beth who has received one Cochlear implant to-date. Photo: Donna McBride

John and Allison McFadden with their daughter Taylor Beth who has received one Cochlear implant to-date. Photo: Donna McBride

BY SEÁN P. FEENY
A DONEGAL couple campaigning to get the State to introduce bilateral Cochlear implants for deaf children have expressed disappointment over the government’s failure to allocate funding in Budget 2014.

Alison and John McFadden, Letterkenny, are members of the Happy New Ear campaign.
Under the National Cochlear Implant Programme children get one implant, even though it is recognised as international best practice to provide two implants.

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Alison and John’s daughter Taylor Beth (2) was diagnosed as being profoundly deaf when she was 19 months old and she has been their biggest encouragement. The couple and their fellow campaigners were invited to Leinster House last week to hear Budget 2014 being released.

Alison said: “After a long year of meetings in Dáil Eireann with the Health Committee, including Minister James Reilly himself, and his Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch, we were invited to Leinster House on Tuesday.

“We were disappointed to find that the funding needed for bilaterals was not allocated. Gerry Adams tabled that a private members bill be run.”
The private members bill was tabled on Thursday. A number of deputies pleaded with the minister to allow funding for this very important issue while all the parents from the Happy Ear campaign were again watching from the gallery.

Alison said: “When Sinn Féin spokesman for justice, Jonathan O’Brien declared a two-minute silence be had in the chamber, an eerie hush came across the room. This was to highlight the silence these children still endure by not having hearing in two ears. He later went on to say ‘If two minutes felt awkward, I can only imagine what a life-time of silence would be like’”.

After an emotional rollercoaster Minister Reilly said there were ‘no easy choices’ but this issue would be one of his top priorities.
“I look forward to having the opportunity of having that priority expressed in regard to the national service plan,” said the health minister.

Alison said: “We still have hope that Minister Reilly will do the right thing for our children and include this in his service plan, but until we see it written in black and white that it has been approved, we will continue to fight and be the voices for our children.”

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