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Mobility allowance axe will destroy people's lives

WHEN you're 33, you want to go to the pub. You want to meet your pals, shoot the breeze, talk politics, celebs, music and have a gossip. You want to feel connected and part of the fabric of life. Get stuck in.

Argue, laugh hysterically, agree to disagree, change someone's mind about something that's important to you. Voice your opinions. Have your voice heard.

At 33, you're old enough to know that social media is no substitute for physical contact with your friends. No 33-year-old ever believes they get enough time socialising.

They'd much rather a work/life balance that tipped the scales in favour of life.



Now imagine if just getting to the shop to get a pint of milk was a major ask. That to physically make a small journey required planning, other people, equipment, a car, extra money and a massive amount of resolve and character.

Getting past your front door out on to the footpath was an achievement in itself.

Michelle Gaynor is 33. She has cerebral palsy and is quadriplegic. She has no use of her legs. Her mind is as alive and switched on as any other 33-year-old.

Actually, Michelle is probably more motivated and dynamic than a lot of 33-year-olds. She used her mobility allowance to put petrol in her car.

Then she'd get her PA to drive for her. Drive her to the shops. Drive her to friends. Drive her to the pub. It was €104 a month and filled her car with petrol.

Most of us would be lost without our car and relish the independence it gives us to head off at the drop of a hat. But a car, for someone like Michelle, is not metaphorically an extension of her body. It is physically and literally an extension of her body.

Without it she can't go places. She can't leave her house.

Sure, she can get the bus. That's if the ramp is working on it, if there isn't already another wheelchair user on the bus or if a buggy isn't taking up the space.

Honestly though, who expects a woman with cerebral palsy and who is quadriplegic to go wait at a bus stop? In the cold or rain, in a wheelchair.

Michelle is one of thousands who'll be affected by the Government's decision to axe mobility schemes for the disabled. I spoke with her this week.

She doesn't believe that the Government has 'ringfenced' her money. She doesn't buy that she'll get it back given the way she heard it was being taken from her. (She heard this not from the Department of Social Welfare, but from a pal).

She asked Enda Kenny to come and live in her shoes and live her life to see how he could manage without it. She really doesn't think our politicians get it.

It's not about getting to the pub to drink. It's about just getting out of the house and preventing isolation and depression. To hang out with your friends. To laugh and to make them laugh.

It's about giving a bright, young woman the independence that she craves and that she deserves.