'You are no friend of people with disabilities' – Taoiseach tells Fianna Fail in Dáil row

There were angry scenes in the Dáil after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar rounded on Fianna Fáil and accused it of failing people with disabilities in the past.

Angry exchanges broke out after Mr Varadkar told Micheál Martin his party should be ashamed of its record of cutting disability funding when it was in power.

“You are no friend of people with disabilities,” Mr Varadkar said

“You should be ashamed of your record when it comes to disabilities.”

The Taoiseach’s comments sparked a shouting match and disrupted Leaders Questions.

He had been asked by Mr Martin to address reports that the Cope Foundation, one of the country’s largest service providers to people with disabilities, expressed concerns about funding and delays for people accessing assessments and supports.

Mr Martin said this was “a huge cry for help” and accused the Government of lacking a vision to tackle issues in the disability sector. The government needs to go in “another direction”, he added.

Mr Martin appealed to the government to talk to and engage with families after the Cope Foundation CEO Sean Abbot told the Irish Examiner more than 1,350 children are waiting for specialist intervention. Mr Abbot said some have been waiting for years .

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil he recognises and respects the “terrific work” the Cope Foundation does. Funding to the foundation has increased by 26pc over the lifetime of this government he added.

He said last weeks Budget announcement promised €2bn for disability services next year.

Mr Martin said the Taoiseach’s response shows “the government seems to be very intolerant of criticism”.

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