Speech by Minister for Health and Children, at the opening of the John Bermingham Centre, Cork

Thank you for inviting me to the the official opening of the John Bermingham centre. I very much welcome this opportunity to pay tribute to the late John Bermingham and the dedicated service he played such a prominent role in establishing.

In 1957 John was appointed Secretary of what was then the Cork Poliomyelitis Aftercare Association. This Association was established in the wake of the very severe outbreak of polio which ravaged Cork in 1956. Within a few years the work of the Association had expanded to include services to persons with an intellectual disability. These services increased to include educational services, vocational training, residential and day services. In 1988 the decision was taken to rename the Association to the COPE Foundation.

The Foundation has come a long way since those early days. It has now become one of the biggest voluntary agencies in the Southern region, providing a range of high quality services which includes residential, respite, and educational services, as well as training and employment. The opening of this Centre sees the beginning of another chapter in the Foundation’s proud history of service and I know that this new development, like all of the Foundation´s services, are guided by a policy of putting the individual needs of the person first.

The core principle underlying this policy is that persons with an intellectual disability should be enabled to live as independently as possible. This principle is being realised by a very strong partnership between the Government, statutory and voluntary service providers and people with disabilities and their families.

This partnership approach has led to significant improvements in the level of services available to persons with an intellectual disability in recent years.

However we recognise that more remains to be done.

This Government has identified the provision of improved services for persons with an intellectual disability and those with autism as one of its priorities in the area of health and personal social services. In late 1999, the Government committed itself to an accelerated programme of investment in these services.

In the two year period since then, additional revenue funding amounting to £76m has been allocated to further enhance the level of services available to persons with an intellectual disability and those with autism.

Capital funding amounting to £75m has also been made available to support the expansion of the services in the same period.

While this funding has made a very significant difference to the lives of many people, there are and will continue to be many challenges for all services providing support in this area.

However I have no doubt that the continued partnership between health boards, the voluntary sector, the parents and friends of persons with a disability, and persons with a disability themselves, will ensure that the coming years see the development of many more high quality services such as the John Bermingham Centre.

Thank you.