Tuesday 21 November 2017

'I've spent years fighting for equal rights, when I should have just been able to enjoy having a child'

Protesters gathered outside Dáil Eireann today

Tracey Holsgrove from Oldcastle, Co.Meath with her daughter Fionnuala Lynch at the protest led by disability rights activist Joanne O'Riordan. Pic Tom Burke 30/3/2017
Tracey Holsgrove from Oldcastle, Co.Meath with her daughter Fionnuala Lynch at the protest led by disability rights activist Joanne O'Riordan. Pic Tom Burke 30/3/2017
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

A mother whose child was born with physical and intellectual disabilities 10 years ago has told how she has been waiting "all her life" for the Irish Government to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Yesterday marked the 10-year anniversary of when the CRPD was first adopted and Ireland remains the only European Union country that has failed to ratify it.

Protesters from disability groups all across Ireland gathered outside Leinster House today, calling on the government to change this.

Tracey Holsgrove, whose daughter Fionnuala Lynch will turn 10 in July, told Independent.ie how her family has been fighting for equality for years.

"It is ten years today since our country made a big show of being one of the first countries to sign the convention. Fionnuala was born ten years ago and we have literally waited all her life for this to be ratified," she said.

"If our state had ratified this soon after signing it, we probably would have been able to spend a sizeable chunk of the last ten years just doing fun stuff.

Joanne O'Riordan from Cork during a demonstration supported by 100 disability groups calling on Ireland to ratify the UN Convention for People with Disabilities at outside Leinster House, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Joanne O'Riordan from Cork during a demonstration supported by 100 disability groups calling on Ireland to ratify the UN Convention for People with Disabilities at outside Leinster House, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

"I have spent the last number of years fighting for her rights as regards transport, education and services, when we should just have been able to enjoy having a child," she added.

Tracey, who is originally from London, has been living in Ireland for 15 years.

Since she has been here, people with disabilities have been battling for equal rights.

"It’s not just this government, because in her life we’ve had a few, but it just says to me that the Irish State doesn’t consider persons with disabilities, irrespective of what that disability might be, to be equal.

"It doesn’t make me want to leave Ireland because I love living her. This is her home, she’s Irish, all she wants is to be treated the same as everyone else."

The protest was coordinated by a number of disability groups including Down Syndrome Ireland, Rehab and the Irish Wheelchair Association.

Speaking at the event, leading disability rights activist Joanne O’Riordan said disabled people “deserve to be treated equally”.

She is one of only seven people in the world with a condition called Total Amelia, which means she was born without limbs.

"The sad reality is that most people living in Ireland are unaware of the positive implications that this convention will have on our lives.

"Without ratification, Ireland is openly admitting that they are failing us. They are stating on an international stage that disability rights do not matter."

Joanne, who is from Co Cork, met with Minister Finian McGrath after the protest to once again highlight the everyday struggles people with disabilities face in Ireland.

"Each and every day I face minimal yet effective discrimination. This could include cars parking on footpaths, ignorant and selfish people parking in wheelchair spaces or pubs and clubs having little or no access," she said.

"We are not a special class, we are the same class, and we deserve to be treated that way."

States which ratify the CRPD have to enact laws and other measures to improve disability rights and abolish legislation, customs and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities.

Currently, Ireland retains a law called the Lunacy Act 1871, which brands people with impaired capacity as lunatics and idiots.

Protesters outside the Dáil held signs aloft which read "I am not a lunatic, I am a human being," while others simply said "Ratify".

While Ireland was one of the first countries to sign the CRPD, it is now the only EU country that has failed to ratify it after the Netherlands and Finland ratified it in 2016.

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