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New campaign to secure rights for people with disability

category national | health / disability issues | news report author Thursday March 16, 2006 16:55author by Miriam Cotton - Disability Election Pledge Alliance Report this post to the editors

Disability Rights: The Discussion is Not Over

A coalition of voluntary disability groups around Ireland has announced itself today. The Disability Election Pledge Alliance are set to mount a challenge to the recent implementation of the Disability Act 2005.

A stunned disability lobby is slowly regaining sensation in the wake of the Disability Act 2005. Not even the most cynical of observers could have suspected that the government would, despite all their previous promises, revert to a piece of legislation which conceded virtually nothing on the previously disgraced and discarded bill. This issue has been written about on Indymedia before (link here so this article does not discuss the reasons why the Act was such a monumental disappointment again.

The government has clearly hoped that by burying the Disability Act 2005 in the middle of its election term, the issue will have burned itself out by the time the election comes around. Well, that time is approaching and the lobby has this to say in response: the discussion is not over.

The routine response by government is to point to the so-called 'multi-annual funding' package which it claims is directing fantastic sums of money at the issue. A seasoned disability rights campaigner and member of the former Disability Legislation Consultation Group, Mr Seamus Greene (Director of the National Parents & Siblings Alliance) has already forensically disected the government's claims on multi-annual funding, most notably on Prime Time, (link: ) and given the lie to the government's claims. Not too surprisingly the figures turn out to have been presented in an extraorinarily misleading way so that the truth is, little additional money is being invested in people with disability. Many are experiencing cutbacks in services. So, beware of ministers talking telephone numbers where this issue is concerned because people will continue to suffer damagingly delayed assessments, inadequate supports and the all too familiar frustration with the social, economic and other impediments needlessly affecting them every day of their lives. Deperately needed respite care is ever more scarce and those who struggle to provide it are in despair in many instances.

Unfortunately, however, the mainstream media in this country are, for the main part, collectively as rabbits in headlights when it comes to government misinformation. Where disability and multi-annual funding is concerned, a chorus of delighted approval greeted its announcement and trying to distract the frozen stare of the press from its lights can be a very frustrating business indeed. It's all smoke and mirrors, people, can you get your heads around that I wonder? Or does the prospect of displeasing your 'contacts' upset your digestion? Groucho Marx must have coined his famous line for you: 'Those are my principles: if you don't like 'em, I've got others'. Come to think of it, he might have had almost any of our political parties in mind.

Rights for people with disability? 'It'll bankrupt the country, I tell you!' Many people convince themselves that this is true when it is actually undiluted nonsense. We have seen billions vanish into uncompleted road schemes, massively over budget. Costs for completing almost any public project in Ireland exceed those incurred in any other European country for the main part. This is waste on a monumental scale and all that taxpayers money vanished into God knows who's pockets, usually without trace. If even a tenth of it was directed at disability, the situation would be significantly improved. And despite the waste, you will notice that the sky has not actually fallen down, nor has the eocnomy collapsed. Far from it. Imagine what might have been, though? Instead, for example, we have school children with special needs whose already meagre supports were cut back. Service providers for people with disability everywhere are chronically underfunded and their budgets were actually cut, too. And again the main stream press will not report it.

Disability is an issue like no other in its capacity to illustrate the true nature of the society we live in. It is the ultimate litmus test of where we have come to: all our prejudices, greed, incompetence and outright contempt for people needier than the comfortably off is nowhere more apparent. And on this last point, make no mistake about it, the idelogocial influence of the PDs on our society is the most critical factor of all. For them, it actually does not matter that the country can now easily afford to fund decent infrastructure and public services. No, it is a stubborn and deliberate refusal to concede the meanness of their political philosophy. Business comes first every time around. No exceptions. How can a hadful of zealots like this be allowed to run amok with the interests of the people of this country? Can Mary Harney actually hear herself, you wonder, when she says that MRSA is not a matter of resources. It's like a slap in the face to those who have lost relatives to this bug and a kick in the teeth to the hospital staff who are exahuasted from working in underfunded institutions around the country.

To underline the insult and hypocrisy - leave aside altogether the crass prejudice of the disability-rights-will-bankrupt-us charge, and to illustrate the point made above, we now also have the spectacle of the SSIA cash cow bonanza. Where under Jesus do people think this money is coming from? The arse pockets of philanthropic ministers? (It certainly will not be the same money that disappeared into those other pockets referred to above.)

The money is coming from the public purse, from taxpayers, and the only way it can be done is by squeezing the life out of services for the sections of the population who can least afford it. For many of them, they pay their taxes and cannot afford SSIAs but it is still their money that will go to rewarding people already well off, by definition. Marie Antoinette would have been proud of this breathtakingly 'let-them-eat-cake' indifference. Was it not Mary Harney, again, who declared that rich people deserved more of a say in the running of the country? There ought to be a little metaphorical head rolling around here, for sure. To all you savers relishing the prospect of your tummy tucks, or whatever indulgences you are planning for, could I put this question to you? At what point do you think enough is enough? Is there anything that will call you back to the ideals of social justice and moderation that used to at least partly characterise our society in the not so distant past? Of course for some people, their SSIAs will have been a modest investment for their futures, but for huge numbers of others, they most definitely will not. Surely the whole proposition is nothing but a naked bribe aimed at persuading you all to vote the same wrecking crew back into power? Why not have the last laugh? Take the money and run for any other party you care to think of it. The PDs and Fianna Fail should not be rewarded for this.

So, please dont tell us that funding rights for people with disability is beyond contemplation. Disability is an issue which has been neglected since the birth of the country (and before it too). The neglect is not something that can be redressed over night. But there is no reason why a properly guaranteed, legislatively-backed funding programme should not be planned and implemented over a reasonable time frame. It is the only workable solution.

And to those who say it's all too late because the Disability Act (and the Education of Persons with Special Educational Needs Act for that matter) are on the statute book: nonsense again. The Government is initiating new legislation every week of the the year, from scratch. The only difference with this issue, is that all of the work that is needed to draft adequate legislation has already been done, so in fact nothing could be easier legislatively speaking. In fact, an appropriately worded draft already exists. The Disability Act 2005 and the EPSEN Act, 2004 were the governments second attempt to regulate the issue of disability. We have to make it third time lucky.

Please the address above if you would like to register your support for DEPA's campaign or would like further information.

author by Cathy Swift - People before Profitpublication date Thu Mar 16, 2006 17:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dear Miriam,

I can't see the address to which you refer (for those who want to support the campaign). Could you post it again?

Cathy Swift

author by anonpublication date Thu Mar 16, 2006 17:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What exactly is the campaign, whats new, what challenge is to be mounted?

author by . - .publication date Thu Mar 16, 2006 17:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If you would like to register your support for this campaign or to find out more about it, please telephone Miriam Cotton, DEPA Co-Ordinator, on 023 36815 or 087 2953838

author by MCpublication date Thu Mar 16, 2006 18:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors


Link to a small, temporary webpage here - website being constructed.


Good question! This campaign is an appeal directly from people themselves - not via service providers or other agents. This is new, this time around, and its very important, given the size and weight of the disability lobby. We hope to make the strength of feeling about what has happened apparent and also to force the government to listen properly to us, if we can. Bertie Ahern has said that he wishes he could deal with the need to consult people in the same way the Chinese do (i.e. not at all). That's a pretty clear-cut indication of how he really feels about voters and it explains a lot about a lot of things.

DEPA have, fundamentally, the same difficulties at bottom as every other campaigning group in the country: a government that spends its time arranging things so that they do not have to listen to us, let alone do the things we elected them to do, in the way we want them to do it. The electorate are nothing but a nuisance to them.

So far as the specific issues are concerned: the DLCG set out a perfectly well articulated set of recommendations for legislation and those are the objectives we are sticking with.

We are looking for direct support from people with disability and voluntary groups - we ask those people to share in this effort as much as possible. It is our campaign, this time around.

We ask service providers and other agencies to endorse our campaign by declaring their support for us wherever and whenever they can.

But most of all, we are asking other people and all political representatives to pledge to make this a top priority at the election. To ordinary people we are saying please only vote for a party that has pledged, in writing, to implelement the DLCG's core recommendations.

author by M Cottonpublication date Thu Mar 16, 2006 18:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The following are the five core recommendations made by the DLCG and these are the rights that DEPA are pursuing:

1. A clear and unequivocal right to assessment of need – not resource dependent;
2. Services identified in the assessment of need to be provided within a reasonable, agreed timeframe;
3. Clear protection for disability specific resources;
4. Sectoral plans from Government Departments to take account of the wider needs of people with disabilities;
5. A clear statutory duty on Government Departments and public bodies to include people with disabilities in their plans and services - with ongoing monitoring and accountability.

None of these conditions has been met by the Disability Act 2005..

author by Miriam Cottonpublication date Mon Mar 20, 2006 14:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

DEPA have now set up a pledge on Pledgebank - click on the link here to read it:

Please register your support for our campaign by signing up asap. Also, please email your colleagues, friends and relations to do the same.

author by Miriam Cottonpublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 13:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Clarence Sundrum, President of Mental Disability Rights International writes today in the Irish Times:

"Fifty-seven years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaiming a common standard of human rights for everyone. Since then, the UN has adopted sepcific treaties protecting civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for 'everyone'.

In most countries, however, people with disabilities continue to endure serious violations of their human rights, face pervasive discrimination, and find themselves marginalised economically, socially and politically. People with mental disabilities are especially disadvantaged, and have been subjected historically to some of the most systematic and egregious violations fo their rights.

Human rights investigations, including those by Mental Disability Rights International, have found people with mental disabilities:

*subjected to arbitrary detention, sometimes for a lifetime, without any legal process;
*forced to work in institutions without compensation;
*chained to walls and confined in cages;
*enrolled in risky experiments without informed consent';
*physically abused and sexually exploited;
*deprived of basic health care, and dead from preventable conditions such as malnutrition and hypothermia
*subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment including use of painful and noxious aversive therapies, unmodified electroconvulsive therapy, and misuse of restraints and seclusions for days
*Most recently, in Romania, the group found children with disabilities abandoned in maternity hospitals without names or identity papers, and therefore who had no legal existence.

People with mental disability too easily can be found incapable of exercising their legal rights and deprived of these rights entirely or have their rights transferred to guardians or other legal representatives. While many guardians act in the best interests of their wards, there are widespread and persistent reports from around the world of guardians who abuse and misuse their authority.

Guardians have disposed of property; consented to commitment to institutions and prevented discharges; consented to unmodified electroconvulsive therapy, aversive therapy and the confinement in cagebeds; limited sexual activity and consented to abortions and sterilisation; and approved participation in risky experiments, organ donations and do-not-resuscitate orders.

Public guardians often have large caseloads and fail to consult their wards about decisions that need to be made. Many guardianship systems have weak or nonexistent processes for periodic review and an accounting of the actions of the guardian. As a result, guardians have made decisions with serious, sometimes permanent consequences, with wards having no voice in the decision or any ability to challenge it.

In response to the continuing lack of protection of the human rights of people with disabilities, the UN has begun a process of developing a convention that aims to 'promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity'.

A key issue to be deliberated at a session in August is the legal capacity of people with disabilities, and the practices that deprive them of such capacity. Several countries and organisations of people with disabilities, including the International Disability Caucus, are arguing for a re-conceptualisation of legal capacity to recognise capacity more universally and to give legal recognition to reliance on informal support networks of families and friends to assist people with disabilities in exercising their rights. These proposed changes would reduce or eliminate entirely the longstanding reliance on guardians and personal representatives in most countries.

The National Disability Authority meets in Dublin today to formulate recommendations for how the draft treaty can better protect the human rights of people with disabilities, especially for those who may need assistance in exercising their legal rights. Existing laws dealing with incapacity deprive people of the ability to exercise their legal rights, but these same laws also offer protection against expoitation.

For example, they make it a crime to have sexual relations with someone incapable of consent; they make contracts voidable if the person lacked the capacity to agree to the terms; they extend statutes of limitations for the period a person is incapable of exercising legal rights, and so on. The challenge is to find a balance which respects the core right of all to be recognised as persons before the law and to retain their decision-making autonomy while not abandoning the State's historic obligation to protect vulnerable citizens."

author by Michelle Clarke - Social Justice and Ethicspublication date Thu Jun 15, 2006 18:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The purpose, the commitment or is it just to do with research at academic level, the kind of research that the researcher determines the questions to be answered versus a more comprehensive research where people directly affected with disabilities are treated with respect, as equals, and having something to contribute.

I thought it was me and my emails that bid rejection by way of being ignored at the NDA.

I was most distressed to hear that a person recently phoned from Finglas and was fobbed off on the issue of suicide. Another party intervened on her behalf and slowly but surely put the man undertaking research at the NDA in his place. It was felt that the Library was not a facility to be used by the general public and there was no assistance provided nor initiative for this woman concerned about suicide.

Wake up Government. Stop the reports and find time for Rights for People with Disabilities. What about the much needed charity related legislation.....that would stop all these associations mushrooming up without proper sanctions. If we are serious about Disabilities and encouraging people in philantropics then it is imperative to have hands own enforcement and action from an Overseer. This overseer must engage in logistics; interaction and an agenda within a prescribed budget.

The reports are excellent. I collected one recently on accessibility. I then wrote to compliment them on the report and ask about why there was no inclussion under this Title about Disability Dogs e.g. for people with Agoraphobia, for people with neurological problems, psychological problems, etc.

Dogs for the Blind now cover Children with Autism........what an impact it has made for these chidren.

Needless to say the NDA did not respond......I have written many letters about Facility Dogs/Companion Dogs and access to coffee shops etc. i.e. like Europe and the US.

No response is not good enough

but worse no help to the woman in Finglas is a lot worse.

These people must interact with the people..........Where is the Transparency and Accountability.................?

A nun recently was awarded euros 6,000 by a Judge. She was refused entry to a pub with her Guide Dog. The action was funded by herself under discrimination ........ Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform.

Is this credible? Crufts Dog Show had a disability category for dogs who work with people with disabilities. How far are we behind in Ireland.....?

Michelle Clarke

Flying High by Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) Norwegian playwright.

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