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Parents of special needs children attend a protest against cuts to SNA numbers at Leinster House two weeks ago. Further protests are planned for today. Paula Nolan
Special Needs

Thousands expected at protest against Special Needs cutbacks

The government says 200 positions have to be cut, but independent TDs say positions should be safeguarded.

Updated, 12.23

THOUSANDS OF DEMONSTRATORS are expected to congregate at Leinster House this afternoon for protests over government plans to cut the jobs of 200 Special Needs Assistants.

The protests, at 3pm and 6pm, come ahead of a Dáil vote on a motion brought by the technical group on saving the positions, which the government says it must cut under the terms of the EU-IMF bailout.

Independent TDs from the grouping have called on the government to renegotiate the terms of the bailout programme to save the positions.

One of them, Finian McGrath, this morning told the Dáil that the withdrawal of the positions would leave Ireland in breach of its commitments under the European Convention of Human Rights – opening it up to potentially costly legal cases.

The cost of those inevitable legal challenges, McGrath said, would actually end up costing the State more than it would need to pay to maintain the SNA positions.

Another TD, Maureen O’Sullivan, this morning said she simply could not understand how a commitment to reduce the numbers of SNAs could have been included in the terms of the EU-IMF agreement.

“Parents have enough on their plate without having to face a service being lost to their children,” O’Sullivan said, adding that the role of SNAs had been dramatically expanded since its international inception as a carer.

“The bottom line is that a child with special needs needs all the resources that they can get. It shouldn’t even be on the agenda.”

The reduction will mean that children with special needs face reductions in the number of hours of special teaching they will receive – a move which parents claim will force their children into long-term residential care in the future.

The cuts come in spite of an increase in the numbers of children actually in need of the SNAs’ services.

Previously: Reduction in special needs assistants concerns parents >

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