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Cara Darmody campaigning for better autism services at Government Buildings during Tuesday's cabinet meeting RollingNews.ie
Cara Darmody

Teenager involved in Dáil protest over autism services to meet with Taoiseach Simon Harris later

13-year-old Cara Darmody began her protest outside the Taoiseach’s office on Tuesday morning.

LAST UPDATE | 20 Jun

TAOISEACH SIMON HARRIS is due to meet later with a 13-year-old girl who is involved in a protest outside the Dáil for better autism services and assessments.

Cara Darmody, who has two brothers with severe autism, began her protest outside the Taoiseach’s office on Tuesday morning at around 8am.

The teenager, from Co Tipperary, is returning today for a meeting with Harris, and will protest weekly outside the Dáil every Thursday afternoon until the next General Election.

Prior to her first protest on Tuesday, Darmody said is looking for a “firm commitment backed by a timeline” for needs assessments for children to be carried out within six months and to be paid for by the State.

She is seeking a similar commitment for access to relevant services “within months rather than years for needs-assessed children”.

She is also looking for the Government to commit to “producing monthly progress reports filed two months in arrears which simply state how many children get needs assessed and how many have started accessing services”.

Speaking before her first appearance outside the Dáil on Tuesday, Cara said there is a “need to fund and properly manage autism services in this country once and for all”.

Cara has previously met with Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin while they were in the Office of Taoiseach.

The 13-year-old remarked: “I told the previous Taoisigh that I met that I’d be back if they didn’t do more, so all I’m doing is keeping my promise.”

Speaking to reporters in Dublin today ahead of his meeting with Cara, the Taoiseach said Cara’s concerns are his concerns and he got involved in political life for the same reasons.

“I know what it’s like to live in a family where you’re feeling you are having to constantly fight and fight and fight for services,” he said.

The Taoiseach said Cara is right to highlight the issues with assessments of needs and said 4,500 additional assessments are going to be carried out this year. 

“I really think this is an area where the state needs to do better. It’s an area where I’m determined to put a renewed focus,” he added.

Harris had previously committed to meeting with Cara, telling the Dáil on 17 April that he will “meet with Cara in the next couple of weeks and get her views”.

This exchange came after Labour leader Ivana Bacik noted that Cara was due to protest outside the Dáil this month, and Bacik asked if Harris would meet Cara “as soon as possible”.

Harris had a brief meeting with Cara on Tuesday and will meet with her and her father today at 1.30pm.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Justice Minister Helen McEntee commended Cara for “using her situation to advocate not just for her family, but for those who perhaps feel they do not have a voice or for children coming behind her”.

“We want to work with Cara and others like her to do what we can,” added McEntee.

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