Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Teen with Down syndrome helps change Irish law so people with Down syndrome can own property

From The Connacht Sentinel in Ireland:

It was the toughest budget in the history of the State but it contained some good news for one Galway family.

Phyl Kennedy and her daughter Grace (18) had petitioned the Minister for Finance to change legislation that prevented Grace from purchasing a house simply because she has Down Syndrome and imposed a tax on her parents when they helped her to buy it. (Both are pictured.)

Their campaign culminated in a private audience with Minister Brian Lenihan during the infamous Fianna Fáil think-in at the Ardilaun Hotel last September and provisions were announced in the Budget last week that have been dubbed “Grace’s Law”.

People with Down Syndrome are prevented from buying property under the terms of the Lunacy Act 1871. The archaic legislation precludes “idiots” and “imbeciles” from being party to such transactions.

It is therefore necessary for parents of children with learning disabilities to buy property on their behalf but, until last week, they were punished for doing so by having to pay stamp duty on the house as if it were a second home or an investment property.

The Minister for Finance announced in the Budget that this would no longer apply in those circumstances and Grace’s parents, Ms Kennedy and local author Ken Bruen, received a cheque from the Revenue Commissioners refunding the stamp duty that they paid earlier this year.

The announcement was described as a landmark by Ms Kennedy, who said the stamp duty had been a punishment for allowing her daughter to live independently and had forced parents to pay for discrimination against their children.

“It is still the case that she isn’t allowed to buy a house just because of the shape of her eyes but at least now her parents won’t be punished for providing for her to live independently,” she said.

Ms Kennedy is a resident of Bohermore in a house that she has named “Graceland”. The family has purchased the house next door, which she calls “Disgraceland” because it is the property that Grace is not allowed to own in her own name.