Home visit teaches Kenny harsh reality of budget cuts
By Caroline O’Doherty, Irish Examiner, Friday, December ,2011
THERE are harsh realities and then there are home truths.
Last night it seemed the latter had got the better of the former when Taoiseach Enda Kenny met the schoolboy who helped to stop potentially devastating budget cuts.
Mr Kenny travelled to the home of 15-year-old Thomas Winters in Trim, Co Meath, to meet the teenager whose story touched hearts after last week’s budget touched a raw nerve with the disability
Thomas is a sports fanatic with muscular dystrophy who will be 16 soon and was, up until the budget, looking forward to getting the disability allowance on his next birthday and allowing himself the
modest indulgence of a Sky Sports package for the TV.
The budget threatened to put an end to that, delaying his eligibility for two years and then offering him only half the current rate of payment.
Thomas took the disappointment with trademark resilience but his dad, Niall, decided enough was enough and took to the airwaves to vent his dismay.
By speaking publicly, he and other parents helped stall the planned cuts and forced the Government to set in train a review process, now under way.
Last night, a humbled Mr Kenny sat in the living room of the Winters’ family bungalow hearing of Thomas’s plans for the future and seeing for himself the strength needed to live with a disability — and stand up to the sometimes careless ways of government.
"It’s my privilege to come here," he said, saying the issues brought up by the Winters and others had highlighted "particular sensitivities" in the budget. "This is an example of listening to people’s
Thomas’s mum, Ann, declared herself delighted with the visit. "He saw Thomas as a real child, not just a statistic — that’s worth a lot," she said. Niall said he had faith that the cuts would not be pushed through next year. "I think reality has hit home a bit," he said.