The Independent Alliance is next up in Steve Daunt's analysis of what political parties are saying about disability.
They’re going to be like buses. None for ages and then they all arrive. That’s what Undaunted feels like this morning. I thought it would be a few weeks before I took my scalpel to another political party and their promises around disability.
We’ve had Renua. Now is the return of the Independent Alliance and their Charter for Government 2016. I’m going to quote the whole section as it’s a lesson of what to look for when you read any disability policy.
Point nine in the charter states:
Ireland’s most vulnerable must be protected. We will sign a separate, binding pact with any other group in government that the sick, the elderly, those worst-off in society and those with additional needs, must be given priority. We will insist this pledge is underpinned by legislation, including the enactment of our Equality of Access (Down’s Syndrome) Bill within the first six months of government. The next government should ratify the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, without delay.
What’s the first word that jumps at you? VULNERABLE. It places disability in the realms of charity and ‘doing the right thing’. We have needs. The idea that there are such things as citizens who happen to have disabilities. Citizens have rights that can be named and measured. Vulnerability is an emotive term.
We then move on to enacting a bill in the first six months of Government. There is no doubt that people with Downs need their rights vindicated but naming one specific impairment goes against the whole idea of the Disabled Citizen. There is also the fact that we already have a Disability Act, and Equal Status Act and an Employment Equality Act that can be used.
I’m trying to be fair here but the person writing point nine should know all this. Finian McGrath was elected in 2003 on the back of revulsion at the 2002 Disability Bill. To wizened old activists like me, fame went to his head. He show-boated and in 2005 found himself starring in celebrity contest You’re A Star Charity Special.
To my eyes, that reinforced the idea of charity and disability going hand in hand. He lost me then. Nothing in the charter makes me want to change my mind. That includes their last promise. It seems like an afterthought to make the policy look good. Having the UN convention should be the first step. If it is, then the language of vulnerability will be redundant.
Never end an article on a negative so here is a plug for the #DisInequality campaign. There are stories. There are people but they are all pointing towards the lack of rights disabled citizens actually have.
Political parties please take note.