A DISABLED Limerick woman who had to go to the UK for the adaptations needed to drive her car has been hit with a €23,000 fee to register the vehicle here.
The determined woman has pushed her complaint to the very top and got a meeting with Finance Minister Michael McGrath, telling him “the worse your disability, the more you are punished.”
Disability campaigner Lee Gath, from Pallaskenry, was disabled from birth by the drug thalidomide and has to constantly use a wheelchair.
The nature of Lee’s disability means that there are just two types of vehicle she can drive and she cannot get the fit-out she needs done in Ireland.
She told the Limerick Post that grants for fitting vehicles out are awarded on a tier system, depending on what modifications need to be made.
“For instance, there’s a grant of €16,000 to allow for adjustments like a swivel seat to make it easier to get in and out of a car. People are entitled to claim that even if it’s to get granny from the nursing home once a month to bring her for a drive. And that’s a modification that can easily be done here.
“Because of my disability, there’s only two types of car I can drive, even with modifications. When I had to change the car this time, the only suitable one I could find to buy was in the UK and that is where I would have to go anyway to get the modifications done.
“When I went to register it here, I was told there was a VRT bill of €23,000 before they would give me Irish number plates. There’s no way I can afford that. And even if I could it’s ridiculous. There are no other disability aids that have VAT charged on them.”
Lee petitioned for a meeting with Minister McGrath and got one, saying “he seemed to understand but as it stands right now, I’m breaking the law”.
“I have to drive. It’s the only way I can get around. Technically speaking, if the Gardaí stop me they are entitled to seize the car and leave me on the side of the road in my wheelchair. It would be a very hard Garda that would do that, but I’m entitled to drive legally. If I can’t get this sorted, I won’t be able to renew my insurance.”
Lee says she is also worried about an upcoming family holiday to the UK.
“I’ll have to drive there but I don’t know if I’ll be able to get the car back into the country,” she said.