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Mattie McGrath and Adam Harris © RollingNews.ie
Autism

Senator tells TD: "You did not see children with difference in school because they were not allowed to attend"

“Is it any wonder the stigma that autistic people suffer when such dangerous misinformation is spouted in the Dáil?” AsIAm CEO Adam Harris said.

CEO OF AUTISM charity AsIAm Adam Harris and a Fine Gael senator have hit out at Independent TD Mattie McGrath for spreading “dangerous misinformation” in the Dáil. 

During a debate on progressing special education provision in the Dáil yesterday, McGrath said there “must be a need for understanding the explosion of autism” and questioned why the number of diagnoses had increased. 

“I will not make little of any one boy or girl who has it. It is so tough and early diagnosis is so important, but we must examine why,” McGrath said. 

He went on to say that the last time he raised the matter in the Dail, he was “berated by a certain Mr Harris, not the politician, but the other guy from AsIAm”. 

McGrath said that his brother had worked in Africa as a paediatrician in the 1990s and when he returned to Ireland, it was the first time McGrath had heard the words autism, dyspraxia and dyslexia. 

He said his brother was “very concerned” that “something was causing” autism. 

“Because when I was going to school … we did not see these issues. There was some issues, but nothing like the amount there are now,” McGrath said. 

The Independent TD went on say he “salutes” every school with autism rooms and service, but questioned whether that model needs to be changed. 

“I was all for that model and I think it is a great one, but I think we will have to change it now to have special schools,” he said. 

Hitting back at McGrath’s comments today, Adam Harris, the brother of Taoiseach Simon Harris, said in a post on X: “Is it any wonder the stigma that autistic people suffer when such dangerous misinformation is spouted in the Dáil?”

Harris said that it was akin to suggesting that something had happened to ’cause’ an increase in autism. 

“Nevermind explaining the right language or facts but dog whistling to conspiracy theorists at autistic people’s expense is below the belt.” 

Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway also addressed McGrath’s comments in a post on X. 

“For the record, @mattiemcgrathtd, you did not see children with difference in school because they were not allowed to attend or be part of society,” Conway said. 

“People like me were sent to school in Dublin hidden away, people like Adam sent to institutions. We all existed but were locked out,” he said. 

Minister of State for Disability Anne Rabbitte said she was “really disappointed to hear any Deputy use their Dáil time to spout such language”. 

“It is actually dangerous and needs to be called out,” she said. 

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