Saturday 24 August 2019

Disability rights campaigner tells Tubridy her parents were told 'to go away and have more children' as she 'wouldn't amount to much'

Julie with her husband to be, David.
Julie with her husband to be, David.

Clare Cullen

Speaking on this morning's Ryan Tubridy Show, disability rights campaigner Julie O' Leary spoke about her cerebral palsy diagnosis, attitudes in Ireland thirty years ago towards disability and how some laws in the country towards disability have not changed since the 1800s.

Julie O'Leary (30) is busy planning her wedding, a milestone some thought she may never reach.

Julie suffers from cerebral palsy and she explained to Ryan Tubridy that when she was eighteen months old, the doctors delivered her diagnosis news to her parents with rather a negative outlook on her potential.

"I know that one consultant told my parents to go away and have more children... not to put too much into me, that I wouldn't amount to much".

"Luckily, they didn't take that advice!", she added.

Listen here:

Irish Examiner News Picture 14/11/2013 For Niall Murray. Julie o'Leary. Picture: Des Barry.
BYLINE PIC 9th july 2009 Julie O'Leary WOW columnist and local hero for Breeda Dooley WOW article Pic; Larry Cummins, Evening Echo staff

While she said attitudes in Ireland have changed over the last thirty years, there are some things that haven't - like laws, relating to mental diability.

She explained to Ryan that the 'Lunacy Act' of 1871 is still the law in Ireland and, as a result, her brother Diarmuid cannot reach the same milestones doctors thought she might never reach.

"As far as Diarmuid is concerned, we are the same. He assumes he will reach the milestones the rest of us will reach, and why wouldn't he?"

"Unfortunately, today in Ireland... it's not legally possible for Diarmuid to get married".

"I'm hoping the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill in the works at the moment will help people who suffer from a mental disability".

Irish Examiner News Picture 14/11/2013 For Niall Murray. Julie o'Leary. Picture: Des Barry.

Ryan pointed out that "even the language" is vastly different to attitudes now, and Julie added that "the thought that we have a law from 1871 in place today" was a scary one.

Julie revealed that Diarmuid is currently "free and single" but that technically, in Ireland, "some people would say he shouldn't be dating at all".

She told Ryan that amidst the joy on the day of the marriage referendum result, her other brother text her to say "there's still someone in our family that is not allowed to marry".

She says that despite this, her family remain positive and upbeat.

"In my house, it's 'why not' rather than 'why?'"


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