By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has said he fully supports the Disability minister in pushing for changes to services, and said that the civil service should make every effort to enact them.
It comes after the Minister of State for Disability Anne Rabbitte said in an interview with the Irish Independent last month that disability services were the “Cinderella” of the Department of Health, and that she felt she could make quicker progress in a different department.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday after viewing a new disability club and health centre at Trinity College Dublin that will open this year, Mr Harris said: “I think Anne Rabbitte is doing a super job, is the first thing I’d say. I like the fact that she calls it as it is.
“And there was a reason the government made a decision to move the disability services or sections to the Department of Children,” as Ms Rabbitte’s role spans across the departments of health and children.
Mr Harris added: “Last time I checked, Minister Rabbitte is the one democratically elected with a mandate.
“She’s pursuing the government’s mandate and the change that the government agreed to in the Programme for Government.
“People need to get on with that now and support Minister Rabbitte in that job.”
He said that it was his understanding from Ms Rabbitte’s interview that she and her Fianna Fail colleague, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, are “working very hard on the issues and very closely together”.
The Fine Gael TD added: “When the government, the people’s representative, says ‘hang on a second, we want to take a new approach to disability services’, the civil service are obligated to move hell and high water to make sure that happens.
“Minister Rabbitte, I hear from people right across the country who engage with her, is really refreshing in the fact that she’s not taking any nonsense here.
“She knows how pressurised people are if you have a child, particularly a child, but if you have anybody in your family, with a disability.
“She’s trying to make a difference.
“It’s her view and it’s the government’s view that part of that difference requires restructure in how that department works in relation to disability and I fully support her, as does the government, in that regard.”