Dr Ian Paisley's Speech

Parliament Buildings, Stormont
19 June 2007

“Good afternoon. I want to welcome everyone to Stormont today and congratulate you on organising this afternoon’s event.

Here in the Assembly, we had a visit yesterday from the Scottish First Minister, so I am glad to see the progress you are making through the Celtic Nations Autism Partnership in co-operation with your colleagues from Scotland and Wales.
Autistic spectrum disorders are a range of lifelong developmental disorders, characterised by difficulties in social interaction, communication and imagination.

Innovative services are needed to meet the needs of young people, and access to such services must be improved. This includes providing a range of venues that may differ from the traditional clinical setting.

The current shortage of relevant professionals must be addressed, not just for Autism but across other developmental disorders and learning difficulties.

All staff working with children and adults should be alert to the tell-tale signs of ASD.

Older adults also need to be considered. There are few services for adults with Autism, and even diagnosis at a later age is often difficult.

Of particular importance is that sufficient respite provision is available. Parents who look after very active and demanding young people for 24 hours day after day deserve at the very least a short break from time to time.

I know that you are keen to have Autism legislation introduced, and I think that, after the unanimous vote we had at the other Assembly, we should step forward. If we can drain your brains - you have done all the spadework - we are prepared to take it and get it into legislation here in Northern Ireland. And I think I can say that at once with unanimity on this current issue.  If your member is not unanimous, work on him. Send us a little note and we'll work on him, too.

One thing Assembly Members have had to learn quickly is that there is very little that is not expensive. Ministers in the Executive would have to be convinced that any new measures are affordable in the current climate. 
What I certainly can guarantee you is the Executive’s commitment to do all we can to improve the lives of Autism sufferers and their families. We will do our best to co-ordinate Autism provision across different Departments.

We recognize the plight of sufferers. We know that the condition of individuals can improve given the appropriate intervention. And we are determined to see the services offered here in Northern Ireland being the equal of anywhere else in the world.

I wish you well with your event today and hope that we can work well together in the future as we tackle the challenges facing the province.  And I trust that the next meeting will be a celebration when the legislation is through the House.