A BUS used by the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) to provide transport to people with disabilities in rural areas has been vandalised for the second time in six weeks. Last weekend one of the specially equipped buses had its front windscreen smashed and its side wing mirror pulled off the vehicle while it was parked outside the Clare’s offices of the IWA at Centre Point Business Park, Orchard Lane, Ennis.
The vandalism has meant that up to 30 people with disabilities have been inconvenienced.
The Clare-based organisation has three buses that provide transport for 55 people with a disability across the county and bring them to organised events during the week.
This Monday, people from West and North Clare were left waiting until members of the association could get out to them to inform them that the bus was not coming for them.
On Mondays the IWA buses pick up in Ennis, Miltown Malbay, Ennistymon and across the West Clare peninsula and bring people to the Belbridge Hotel in Spanish Point, where activities and lunch is organised for them. On Tuesdays, people with disabilities are picked up across East Clare for outings.
Speaking about the impact this act of vandalism has had on the association’s day-to-day activities, service co-ordinator in Clare, Catherine Earley has said people have been left isolated for a whole week as a result.
“This happened six weeks ago while I was on leave. I was so upset by it. These people end up completely isolated in their homes without any access to transport without these buses. This week 30 people have been seriously affected and they are in isolated areas,” Ms Earley explained.
The Irish Wheelchair Association is funded by FÁS, the HSE and the National Lottery to provide an invaluable service to people with disabilities across Clare and with cut-backs since the recession, the organisation has found itself heavily reliant on the good will of people.
“ Grants are very low at the moment and we rely on fundraising. We are in a deficit already of €2,000 on the buses due to general wear and tear and we’re in a situation now where people are hugely disappointed because they can’t get out.
“The gardaí informed us it could cost us €1,000 to repair the damage caused. We have insurance but we have to look at whether it is worth our while putting it through the insurance, as the windscreen had to be replaced six weeks ago,” Ms Earley outlined.
She revealed that the same bus was similarly vandalised while parked outside the organisation’s premises six weekends before.
It is expected that fundraising events will now be organised to raise money to pay for the damage caused to the specially designed bus, but Ms Earley has advised that their service will be up and running again by Monday morning.
The IWA are also looking for volunteers to help out at their offices with the day-to-day running of the operation that provides support and help to people with disabilities across the county.
Ms Earley has urged anyone in the vicinity of the association’s offices that may have seen or heard anything suspicious in the area to contact Ennis Garda Station.
Gardaí are currently investigating the matter and are also appealing for the public’s help with regard to this incident. They can be reached on 065 6864100.