Dean Mulligan reports from Dublin North Disability Forum.
The Dublin North Disability Forum was organised on the back of the Disable Inequity campaign, which was set up pre-general election in order to make disability rights an integral general election issue. The Forum was organised by the Áiseanna Tacaíochta network and the Disable Inequality campaign. It was refreshing to see a good attendance from the NCBI (working with people with sightless and the blind), GDIL (Greater Dublin Independent Living), DFI (Disability Federation of Ireland), IDS (Irish Deaf society) and Individuals with disabilities and family members along with advocacy groups, disabled individuals, family members and politicians. Politicians from both Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council, were in attendance along with some TD’s from both Dublin Fingal and Dublin Bay North Constituencies. The DNDF was set up as an introduction of possible round table discussions, with a particular emphasis on the UN Convention on the Rights of people with Disabilities (UN-CRPD).
The issue of Disability Rights is an issue which many involved feel it has not only been neglected but actually targeted and reaped the unsavoury rewards of Austerity. The battles such organisations should be fighting is to ratify said treaty, however for far too long they have been fighting to highlight the cuts to basic disability frontline services. The forum was a test run of sorts set out to coordinate and work with people with disabilities in North County Dublin, in order to facilitate them as independent advocates for change, in order to create new models of social engagement which allows and encourages such participation.
The forum used the centenary year as an example of hope and aspiration that working together in order to achieve a new sense of democracy and participation in Ireland. They discussed the possibility of establishing a working relationship with local councils and if viable at national level. The discussion focused on the issue of the UN-CRPD. It is not a very easy thing to hear that such a wealthy and developed country is so far behind with respect to providing basic equal rights to the disabled community. 13% of people living in Ireland suffer from a disability that is more than 1 in 10.
Ireland signed the UN-CRPD on the 30th March 2007. In the 9 years that have passed Ireland has steadily reduced and cut disability services. The Irish government developed a roadmap to ratification (an inter- departmental committee chaired by the department of justice, which set out a framework to pursue and develop in order for successful ratification) in that they highlighted the many areas of the disability sector which are considerably lacking and require regeneration and renewal in order to meet basic human rights in which this convention advocates for. There is a need for a significant increase in funding in order to rationally aspire for the successful ratification of this convention by 2018.
The overall feeling that was portrayed from the evening was that of a desire to participate and frustration due to barriers to fair and equal participation in society, be it advocacy, socially, or economically among others and stigmas attached as a result. The presentations and discussions on the night, have set the foundation in what hopefully can see the formation of a positive and beneficial working group on disability.