A 12-year-old autism activist has warned the Taoiseach to get ready for ‘the greatest showdown since the Rumble in the Jungle’ when she meets him at Government Buildings today.
Tipperary schoolgirl Cara Darmody has raised tens of thousands of euro for children with disabilities over the last two years.
In 2022, she sat the Junior Cert Maths paper as an 11-year-old and this year, she went a step further by sitting the Leaving Cert six years ahead of time.
Her campaign is about more than raising funds, however, and today she will meet with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to demand action on the “terrible disability discrimination going on in Ireland today”.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, she had little doubt about the importance of the meeting.
“Later on today, I am meeting the Taoiseach of this country, Leo Varadkar – or as I call him, Leo the Lion,” she said.
“I’m calling the meeting the Rumble in the Concrete Jungle and it is going to be Leo the Lion versus the Little Squirt and I’m not exaggerating here, but it is the greatest showdown since Mohammad Ali fought Joe Frazier in 1971 – facts.”
'Leo the Lion vs The Little Squirt': 12-year-old autism activist, Cara Darmody is meeting with the Taoiseach today, and she tells Shane Coleman about the issues she will raise with him. @NTBreakfast pic.twitter.com/fUZ4mKTTlV
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) July 5, 2023
Cara’s campaign was inspired by her two younger brothers Neil (10) and John (5), who are both autistic and non-verbal and were not assessed in a timely manner.
She said she has three main issues to raise with the Taoiseach.
“There is terrible disability discrimination going on in Ireland today and I’m calling him out big time,” she said.
“There are 17,000 children just waiting on first contact from the HSE – that is 17,000 people just waiting on a phone call.
“It is awful what is happening in this country, and I'm looking for three things from him.
“The first thing is for immediate financial relief for parents paying for assessments and therapies. In my brother’s case, yes, they set the precedent.
“The second thing I always bring up is the lack of accountability in the HSE and that that must change.
“The third thing I am going to bring up to him is a full review of carers allowance.
“People like my mam and carers all over this country - a couple of hundred thousand carers - only get paid €1.34 every hour – only €1.34, it is so, so wrong.”
The Darmody family were forced to go private to get Cara’s brother Neil an assessment of need; however, they were later reimbursed by the HSE.
The family then argued that a precedent had been set and other families should get the same reimbursement.
Back in May, the Minister of State for Disability Anne Rabbitte agreed that the Government would "fund the families" if certain targets were not met by August.
This morning, Cara’s father Mark said the family met with HSE chief Bernard Gloster yesterday and said he “accepted that there is a precedent after being set in our case”.
He said the HSE chief assured him that there was funding in place to reimburse families; however, legislation may be needed to see it happen.
“We are going in to meet the Taoiseach today with great respect, but I suppose, well-armed as well and very well-informed about what needs to happen,” he said.
“Mr Gloster says he believes legislation is needed. He says private assessments can be paid for but it’s just getting to the point of doing that is the next problem.
“Families this morning surely need to hear that as great hope that the days of paying are over.
“From this moment, no person should be paying for a private autism assessment ever again in this State.”
Leo the Lamb
For her part, Cara has her eyes on a big future.
“I think when I am older, I’m going to take Leo the Lion’s job,” she said.
“He’s actually Leo the Lamb – he’s no lion. I only call him Leo the Lion because it sounds better – he is actually Leo the Lamb.”
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