Friday 28 October 2016

President Michael D Higgins leads tributes to disability rights campaigner Martin Naughton

Laura Larkin

Published 13/10/2016 | 22:24

Martin Naughton (pic)
Martin Naughton (pic)

President Michael D Higgins has lead tributes to disability rights campaigner, Martin Naughton, who passed away after a brief illness.

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“Martin Naughton gained widespread respect through his lifelong campaign for the inclusion of people living with disabilities and through his work with countless statutory and non-governmental organisations, “ Mr Higgins said. 

“Having experienced in his early years the once widespread practice of institutionalised living, he became a formidable and tireless campaigner for the right of people with disabilities to live in their own communities and homes.

“As a political activist, Martin Naughton had the vision, skills and determination to build solidarity between all those who strive for equality, dignity and the fulfilment of human rights for all groups in society, making him a valuable ally for a multitude of social justice groups.

“His struggle for equality in Ireland and internationally has been an inspiration,” he added.

Mr Naughton (62) campaigned for Independent Living and founded the first Centre for Independent Living in Dublin in the early 1990s.

The Galway native was born with muscular dystrophy (spinal muscular atrophy) and spent much of his childhood in St Mary’s Hospital in Baldoyle.

He worked with the Disability Federation of Ireland for 19 years and also founded Áiseanna Tacaíochta in 2010.

Senator John Dolan, CEO Disability Federation of Ireland said Mr Naughton “brought a tension and edge to the disability sector and was ever the conscience in the room”.

“Martin’s life was a good life, well lived to his last breath. A life of ongoing service to people with disabilities, to ensure that they would be full and equal members of society,” he added.

“He was never an ‘incrementalist’, it was never for Martin to only see the next move. For Martin that was the wrong place to start. You start where the journey should end – real freedom – and then work tirelessly for it.”

Two years ago Mr Naughton organised a sleep out at Government buildings over planned budget cuts to the Personal Assistant scheme for people with disabilities. The cuts were later reversed.

Minister of State with special responsibility for Disabilities Finian McGrath also paid tribute to the activist.

"I am deeply saddened by Martin's death. He was a great disability rights campaigner and I appointed him to my recent task force on personalised budgets. He was also influential on my 5 year plan of €100m to get those with disabilities out of institutions. Rest in peace Martin," he said.

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