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Taoiseach says minister will intervene in Bolger family case after RTÉ Prime Time programme

Gillian Bolger and Darren Milne spoke about the struggles they have faced in getting their eight-year-old twins into suitable school.

Gillian Bolger told Prime Time that they have had to fight for every support their twin boys need.
Gillian Bolger told Prime Time that they have had to fight for every support their twin boys need.
Image: RTÉ Prime Time

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said Education Minister Joe McHugh will intervene in the case of the Bolger family who were featured on last night’s RTE Prime Time programme. 

Last night, Gillian Bolger and Darren Milne spoke about the struggles they have faced in getting their eight-year-old twins into suitable school. 

Twin boys Kyle and Ryan, who both have autism and other health issues, remain at home due to the shortage of school places, according to their parents. 

Speaking to RTE’s Prime Time, Gillian said life is a daily challenge for her family, adding that they also face the prospect of losing their home. 

The matter was raised in the Dáil today by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who said  the story showed where the government, through its agencies, “has clearly failed these children and parents”.

“Gillian summed up the feelings of many parents of children with special needs. She asked a question which is asked of many of us. Why are these children not prioritised when it comes to getting into school? Every other kid goes back to school in September. Why is there always a problem for quite a number of children with special needs to get school places in September? They said they had to fight everything, tooth and nail, to secure services for their children,” he said.

Darren, who works with Bus Éireann, told the programme last night that he had to cut down his week due to his children’s health needs.

While they boys were offered a place in one school, their health and progress deteriorated after a few weeks at the school, and the parents took them out. 

Because they came out of school, the parents were refused home tuition.

“They had to fight for 12 months to get back home tuition. The father could only work two days a week. Their income went down, their mortgage went into arrears, and the couple is now facing repossession. Their plight sums up the struggle and fighting that so many parents have to go through to get services for children with special needs. Many parents annually face these challenges in securing school places,” added Martin. 

The Fianna Fáil leader said it is a  denial of the children’s constitutional right to an education.

“In my view, there is a terrible inertia within Government towards this issue, which has been ongoing for quite some time,” he said. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he did not like speaking about individual cases but confirmed that the Minister for Education has committed to examining the particular case of Kyle and Ryan “to see if there is anything more that can be done more quickly for them and their family”.

He said when it comes to special education, there are essentially three options: a place in a special class in a mainstream school; a place in a special school; or home tuition.

“Sometimes those options do not work out and different options have to be tried but those three options are available,” said Varadkar.

The Taoiseach added that children with special educational needs are being prioritised, stating that there has been a huge investment in special education in recent years.

There are 10,000 children now in special classes, he said, adding that is three times as many as there were in 2011. He added there are now 15,000 special needs assistants and  13,000 special teachers.

“Yes, there are plenty of individual cases and plenty of families who are not getting the support they need and deserve. We will continue to work on those cases as best we can,” said Varadkar.

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