‘It’s a remarkable early Christmas present for all the families involved’

A temporary autism unit for St Peter’s College in Dunboyne has been approved for September 2019.

The approval for this comes three years after it was initially accepted, but delays led to frustration for families campaigning to have the services made available locally.

Orla Fagan Gormally spoke to TheCity.ie about her Facebook post and ensuing campaign which garnered enough support for the fast-tracking of the unit.

“I posted to my page publicly with very little hope it would be open on time. I had such a good reaction from the community I decided to start a petition, along with four other parents who needed the unit on board,” she said.

“We had two local councillors to help, Maria Murphy and Damien O’Reilly, along with [TDs] Regina Doherty and Thomas Byrne. I want to thank the LMETB, these councillors, TDs, and the principal of St Peter’s for making this a reality,” she said.

It will take a year for the unit to get up and running, but St Peter’s plan to accommodate the five children in an existing space until then.

“It’s a remarkable early Christmas present for all families involved,” said Fagan.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education and Skills spoke to TheCity.ie regarding the development.

“A permanent four classroom ASD Unit has been approved. The delivery has been devolved to Louth and Meath Education and Training Board. To meet the immediate need [September 2019] temporary accommodation is being provided,” said the spokesperson.

In another similar case regarding a service in Dublin City for adults with autism, information under the Freedom of Information Act 2014 showed there was a delay for the Botanic Horizons service from October 2016 until February 2017.

This delay was due to a conflict involving Dublin City Council over the requirement for a disability toilet. The council felt it was required but the architect deemed it unnecessary due to the ‘independent mobility of the service-users’.

Minister Finian McGrath opened the Botanic Horizons service in Glasnevin in February 2017.

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