Disability Rights Media

Nursing homes strategy ‘proactively targeted the most vulnerable’

Tom and Eoghan in front of their house.
Senator Tom Clonan with his son Eoghan in front of their house.

Listen to Independent Senator, Tom Clonan discuss the reports suggesting successive Taoisigh and health ministers agreed a secret plan to hide the true scale of the State’s liability for illegal nursing home charges to prevent massive payouts on The Hard Shoulder on Newstalk.

Or read the transcript here:
Kieran from The Hard Shoulder:
Let me introduce Tom Clonan as well, the independent senator, uh, Tom, I mean to, to bastardize that Endo Kenney quote I mentioned earlier. I mean, our, have successive governments been guilty of hiding behind the legal advice of Gimlet I government lawyers?

Independent Senator, Tom Clonan:
Well, no, they haven’t been hiding behind us. Um, this hasn’t been a passive acceptance of legal, of, of legal advice. They’ve actually, uh, ev developed a strategy to deliver worse. Yeah, yeah. They’re proactively, they have proactively targeted the most vulnerable in society with this legal strategy, which I believe was called a sound legal strategy in the last couple of days. I mean, I’m just yesterday

Kieran from The Hard Shoulder:
By the Taoiseach thing …

Independent Senator, Tom Clonan:
Weed clear. I’m, I’m, I’m sorry. I’m very sh I, I’m very disappointed by this, but I’m, I’m not surprised because it’s consistent with, um, a, a government, it’s a, a kind of an ideological approach that sees vulnerable, elderly, and disabled children and adults. The, the, the political philosophy that we’ve had for the last 20 years under success of phenal, uh, LED governments is that, uh, this, this, you know, this is the responsibility of the family that, that the next of kin have the responsibility to look after elderly, uh, and disabled children and adults. And, and that the state should have no role in this. So they, they actively and proactively push back. And, and I can tell you now in Ireland, if you are disabled, uh, or if you have a disabled child, or if you acquire a brain injury, or if you are elderly and you have a stroke and you lose some function, well God help you because there is nothing out there.
The, the, the, the community, um, teams that are supposed to support, uh, children with disabilities have completely and utterly failed. And I got an admission from the former chief executive of the HSE at the Disability Matters Committee last year, that that was the case. They’ve admitted that it’s in failure, it’s in free fall. You saw over the winter period with the crisis in our emergency departments that, you know, we’re not able to cope with an aging profile and, and a, a greater increase in the number of people who are elderly and require support. And this all comes back down to a, a political ideology or philosophy that is unique in Europe. So, for example, Ireland is the only country in the European Union where there is no legal obligation for the state or its agents to hse, for example, to provide treatments, therapies, supports carers care packages to people with disabilities or for people who are elderly or for people who require brain injuries.
And there are hundreds of thousands of people listening to your radio program and, you know, other radio stations who will find themselves in this position. And there is nothing there for you. So I f what I find absolutely reprehensible about this is that in, it wasn’t just a passive denial of the fundamental human rights of people with disabilities, people like my son, but it was an actual proactive strategy to target them with lit, you know, a a an adversarial, uh, process to threaten them with that in order to dissuade them or, or, you know, push back on them getting their fundamental human rights. And that is perverse and that is not government by the people, for the people that is a government and a political philosophy that has set its face against the people. And it’s a government and political philosophy that wants to see the commodification of care, the commodification of health, and to move, move us towards that appalling American model that they have. But even the Americans with Disabilities Acts affords, uh, disabled citizens in the United States with better protections than we have here. We are outliers in Europe. And what this nursing home scandal and the, the, the refusal, you know, the, the withholding of disability payments shows the true face of of government and that political philosophy that lies behind us. Because

Kieran from The Hard Shoulder:
At, at the risk of of of getting too philosophical, I I was gonna ask why you think it is is happening here, cuz in an in on an individual level, and I’m only speaking for myself, and you might disagree, plenty of people listening would disagree, I’m sure on text on an individual level, I don’t think we’re talking about bad people in, in government, yet they pursue these policies that see them continually fail the state’s most vulnerable citizens. And you’ve mentioned quite a few of them there, like I’d add to that list, like, you know, any child with special needs waiting on assessment of needs or interventionist therapies. Uh, none of them happening in a timely manner. Uh, you know, we, we, we were talking on this show last week about mental health services for children and adolescents, and that shocking report that was in no way surprising because it is a problem that has been going on for years. Another cohort of the population that could be described as amongst the most vulnerable being failed by the state. It it, is it political ideology? Is that the answer to that question? Why?

Independent Senator, Tom Clonan:
It is, we’re, we’re the only jurisdiction in Europe that has, where there is no legal, legal obligation to treat people. And that’s why you have the collapse of the child and adolescent mental health services where, you know, there are hundreds and hundreds of, uh, consultant posts unfilled where the HSE has appointed people to these roles without any higher specialist training where we tolerate. And you know what, but what, what as an analogy, when we had horrible cues in Dublin airport, it brought the country to a standstill and the government acted immediately because we could see those people. But nobody can, when you’re in the community as a disabled person or an elderly person, uh, who can’t get a home care package so that you can live at home with dignity in the community, nobody can hear you scream. And they just, it it, it is rooted in this idea that caring and looking after people with disabilities in Ireland that is constructed as women’s work, it’s highly gendered.
Women bear the brunt of the burden of caring in our society. There’s a huge degree of shame around disability in Ireland. Uh, it’s, i I call it the last frontier of fundamental human rights. We treat people with disabilities in Ireland with such casual cruelty in a way that you would never contemplate treating people who, who are different by way of ethnicity. Mm-hmm. Gender identity or sexual orientation. Because quite rightly, we have, we, we have a good track record in, in addressing those challenges. But when it comes to disability or our elderly or are vulnerable, you know, you’re on your own. Like for example, if you become pregnant and you go to Hollis Street, the Rotunda or the coon Yeah. They’re not gonna turn around and say to you, congratulations, come back to me in three years and we’ll have an appointment for you. And in the meantime, the best to look, because that is exactly what’s happening to people with disabilities.
We are being told, people in my community are being told, yeah. You know, you have a child who’s, who’s, uh, got a, a serious intellectual disability or a physical disability. They say, we will give you an assessment of need in five years time, four years time, but which time it’s far too late. And when you get your assessment of need, you can use it as, I’m not gonna say what you can use that because it is a worthless piece of paper because you will not get the services or the supports. We’re in complete failure and free fall. And that’s the reason why Iran for election and what I hope to do is introduce legislation right into the chan that will make it legally obligatory for the state to actually live up to its responsibilities. Okay. And its duty of care to our most vulnerable citizens.
And it’s shocking to have to do that because ethically we should do this. Yeah. And that advice was not a good advice, the legal advice that was given because it has caused untold harm. Yeah. And it is, again, damaged to the reputation and the relationship between Irish people and, and, and politics. And that’s not a good thing either. Okay. So, and remember, lawyers don’t, don’t give instructions. They take instructions. And that was the strategy that was devised by government. It was a proactive, deliberate campaign. Yeah. To further target the most vulnerable and frail people in our society for shame.

Kieran from The Hard Shoulder:
Tom Clonan, independent Senator Tom, thank you very much for joining us