Dear Minister Flanagan,
I am writing to you with regard to the National Platform of Self Advocates. As I’m sure you are aware, the National Platform is having to make the decision to close in the New Year, due to a lack of funding. It is essential that this does not happen and I am asking for your help to prevent it from happening.
As the Head of Department of Nursing Health Science and Disability Studies at St Angelas College, I am all too aware of our previous policies which lead to paternalistic ‘caring’ for people with intellectual disability in Ireland, with large well-funded organisations making decisions about every aspect of people’s lives. Our failures in the past is what makes it imperative to have an independent and user-led group (or groups) to advocate for their rights. The National Platform of Self Advocates has been doing sterling, evidence based work since 2011, I have attended several conferences where they have presented their research.
Functioning democracy depends on citizens having equal rights and being able to participate in the decision making process. Any analysis of the position of people with intellectual disability in our society will illustrate the inequality and oppression that they have endured since the formation of the State. The ESRI/IHREC report Disability and Discrimination in Ireland (2018) bears witness to this. The only effective and legitimate way to redress this situation is to listen to the people with the lived experience.
For the last ten years, this department has developed an expertise in the discipline of Disability Studies. Disability Studies facilitates the examination of the causes of disability and the lived experience of disablement. It defines disability in social and political terms; rather than viewing the person’s impairment as the problem, it refers to the ways in which the physical, cultural and social environments exclude or disadvantage disabled people. The social model of disability, on which Disability Studies is founded, was created and developed by disabled people and offers us a welcome alternative to the traditional worldview of disability as a personal tragedy. Disabled people tell us that the traditional perception of disability is not only untrue, but it is unhelpful. In fact, they tell us that this attitude is oppressive and disempowering.
It’s time for us to move into the space of being allies and partners. ‘Business as usual’ is no longer an option – we must recognise the layers of discrimination that disabled people experience; discrimination which is caused by structural, environmental and attitudinal barriers. The lack of a sustainable and secure platform, which is properly funded from central government is a structural barrier to the equality of people with intellectual disability.
I humbly request that you speak to the members of the National Platform of Self Advocates. Please find out what they need to facilitate their growth and development as leaders and advocates. Please provide the resources/ funding necessary to keep The National Platform of self advocates open and active! These people have been very poorly served by the state to date it is time to reverse this, we owe them this at the very least.
Edel Mc Sharry
Dr Edel McSharry
Head of Department
Department of Nursing, Health Science & Disability Studies
St. Angela’s College; A college of NUI Galway