The parents of two 11-year-old twins with autism who have been denied appropriate schooling have been told by the Minister for Special Education that their children will be given places in a special school.
Gillian Milne and her husband, Darren, have been pleading for the State to intervene and provide such places for the twins, who are non-verbal and have a range of other special needs.
The family has repeatedly received refusal letters stating that the local special schools are oversubscribed.
Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan met the Milnes this morning and confirmed that the twins would be given places in a special school.
The meeting followed a Prime Time report on their situation on Tuesday.
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'Let them get a school place' - Mother of autistic boys
She committed to touching base with them on a weekly basis until the places are finalised, Ms Milne told Prime Time.
"We are thrilled for the boys. It doesn't feel real. If it was that simple, why has it taken all these years to sort out? But we are so happy for Ryan and Kyle," Ms Milne said.
While Mr Milne said he was delighted with the outcome, he noted that the family had to tell their story twice before it came to pass.
"We had to open up our family story twice on Prime Time to get this result. It's terrible that these are the lengths that we had to go to so secure a school place for our boys because they have special needs," he said.
"Our end goal was to get an appropriate school place that matches the boys' needs and we have achieved that. Hopefully that opens the doors for all the other kids with special needs to get places in the appropriate settings for their needs."
On Wednesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin apologised to the Milne family in the Dáil, saying the State had failed to provide their children with the education that is appropriate to their needs.
Minister Madigan yesterday committed to increase the overall number of special school places.
John Kearney, the Chief Executive of the National Council for Special Education, said this week that there were "roughly 160" children nationally who do not have such a place.
Identical twins Ryan and Kyle were born in 2011 and were diagnosed with autism when they were two-and-a-half years old.
In addition to autism, they also have ADHD and a severe learning disability.
Mr Milne has given up his job to help look after the twins. Faced with the threat of repossession, the family are also due to become tenants in their own home when a housing charity acquires the house.
While the Milnes are thrilled to receive the commitment from the minister, Ms Milne said on Wednesday that the Taoiseach's apology was "too little, too late". She said that it could not make up for what her family had lost.
"We have lost our home. Can you give us that back Taoiseach? Darren had to give up work. We'll never be financially stable," she said.
Conor O’Mahony, a law professor at UCC, suggested that a delay in meeting the educational needs of children like Ryan and Kyle had constitutional implications.
He told Prime Time that every child had a constitutional right to an education that is suitable to their needs.
"If you have a child who reaches the age of 11 without having had appropriate education provision made, then I think it's quite clear the state will have failed in its constitutional obligations towards that child."
Should have been 'proactive action'
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that there should have been "proactive action" to secure school places for the Milne boys earlier.
Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, he said: "It is not acceptable what happened (to) the Milne family. The absence of proactivity within the system is a problem here.
"Those boys cried out for action. There should have been proactive action operationally within the system to provide for those two young boys, that is how I see it."
When asked why it took so long to get their school places, Mr Martin said: "I think the application would have gone in recently, but it's not good enough. I apologise sincerely to the Milne family."
He said that he wants new special schools to be established and an extension of existing capacities within existing special schools.
"I am very clear that places have to be provided as a matter of right. There also has to be a review of legislation to ensure that every school in the country is open to taking in children with special needs. It can't be just certain schools all of the time responding to the needs.
"There has to be a wider legislative obligation on all schools to be fully inclusive in respect of children with special needs. There has to be an obligation then on the Government and the State to resource adequately the provision of such places, which we will do."
He said that there had been a "huge expansion of resources" in special education.