Monday, September 25, 2017

Mei Lin Yap’s latest article details her new Disability Inclusion & Advocacy Society in Trinity College, Dublin.

  • Mei Lin Yap has  teamed up with Margaret Turley to start a Society in Trinity College Dublin.
  • It is called Trinity Society for Disability Inclusion & Advocacy.
  • Its aims are to promote inclusion in the Trinity community and educate people about the rights of people with intellectual disability.
  • Meetings will be monthly.
  • It will provide education in self-advocacy to empower the members.
  • The society will launch during Fresher’s Week in September 2017.

My name is Mei Lin Yap and I am a young woman with an intellectual disability. I have teamed up with a fellow Trinity graduate, Margaret Turley, to start a Society in Trinity College Dublin.

I met Margaret on a lecturing project in Trinity College in which we were both involved. Myself and Margaret were looking for opportunities to be involved with other groups and we learned about the Inclusive Research Network (IRN) through Dr Edurne Garcia Iriarte, who is one of the lecturers in the School of Social Work and Social Policy in Trinity College Dublin and has supported the IRN since 2009. Margaret and I attended the IRN meetings in Limerick, and as a result of these meetings we became interested in starting a society. With support from Dr Garcia Iriarte, we have managed to get others on board and we are in the process of starting a society in TCD. We hope the Society will help to create an inclusive environment in TCD by involving disabled and non-disabled students, staff and alumni.   We intend to collaborate with all departments of Trinity College and invite their input.

We are calling ourselves Trinity Society for Disability Inclusion & Advocacy. This will be a unique society. Our aims are to promote inclusion in the TCD community; to educate people about the rights of people with intellectual disability and the contribution that we can make to society; and to make changes to the services that we use in every day life. Our aim is to advocate and lobby, to help educate and raise awareness in order to improve the lives of those with disabilities. We hope that raised awareness and understanding of disability will in turn influence better provision of supports in relation to health, education, and employment. Our big dream is to start off by breaking down barriers that currently exist in society.

We are now looking into different funding opportunities. The Society will be led by CCL alumni Mei Lin Yap and Margaret Turley. We will be facilitating monthly meetings to address inclusion and cover topics of importance to people with disabilities. People with disabilities will have the opportunity to share their experiences and learn from other participants. It is also intended to provide education around self-advocacy to empower our members.

The committee consists of Chairperson; PR & Marketing Officer; Events Liaison Officer; Secretary; Treasurer. All of these posts are held by people with intellectual disability. Each officer of the committee will have a non-disabled support counterpart. We are working towards launching our Society during Fresher’s Week in September 2017.

Author Bio

Mei Lin YapMei Lin Yap is a regular contributor to Frontline Magazine Ireland and our social media pages, with a keen interest in the rights of people with disabilities, particularly with regard to access to education and employment.

How to avoid loneliness in older people with an Intellectual Disability, by Andrew Wormald

  • Avoiding loneliness is important for healthy ageing
  • Nearly twice as many older people with an Intellectual Disability (ID) experience consistent loneliness, when compared to the general population
  • Having a Person Centred Plan (PCP) improves a person’s chance of avoiding loneliness
  • Changes in the frequency of visits with family is a factor in recovery from loneliness
  • Moving within the service organisation was related to becoming lonely

What are the circumstances in a person’s life that best help them avoid or overcome loneliness? For some people as they age loneliness is an ever-present risk. Mounting losses to social resources and deterioration in health increase the risk of experiencing loneliness. However, not all people experience loneliness, and some people are able to recover from the experience of loneliness. This article highlights the findings from the Intellectual Disability Supplement to The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (IDS-TILDA). Those findings can help our understanding of what can be done to reduce the chances of a person with an ID becoming lonely, or if they are lonely what can be done to overcome that loneliness.


Loneliness is an aversive experience that causes suffering for the individual. It is thought to arise because our inherited evolutionary warning system is alerting people that their social networks are inadequate, leaving a person exposed to danger and at risk of a shorter life (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008). When loneliness becomes chronic, it has been associated with raised systolic blood pressure (Hawkley et al., 2010; Ong et al., 2012), increased cardiovascular disease (Lynch, 2000), suicidal ideation (Merrick et al., 2006) and increased mortality (Cacioppo & Cacioppo, 2014).


The experience of loneliness can be chronic, transient or situational (Peplau, 1988). Victor et al. (2008) described four states of loneliness that people can experience: Consistent Loneliness, where participants reported loneliness over both waves of data collection; Regenerative Loneliness, where people report experiencing loneliness in wave 1 but not in wave 2; Degenerative Loneliness, where participants report no experience of loneliness in wave 1 and in wave 2 report feelings of loneliness; and Never Being Lonely.


Latest results from the IDS-TILDA study offer hope to older individuals with an ID, staff and service providers about how loneliness can be avoided or overcome. The IDS-TILDA is Europe’s leading longitudinal research project investigating the ageing process of older people with an intellectual disability. The project is following the lives of 753 participants throughout the Republic of Ireland. A total of 297 participants completed the loneliness scale; all were able to self-report their experience of loneliness over 2 waves of data collection 3 years apart.



It was found (Figure 1) that more than 26% of participants reported experiencing Consistent Loneliness over the two waves of data collection, 19% were categorised as Regenerative, 12% were Degenerative and 42% of participants never reported experiencing feelings of loneliness. The amount of Consistent Loneliness is nearly double the amount reported from the wider population (Figure2). The good news is that, having more people in the recovered from loneliness than became lonely is unusual and goes against the trend of findings in the wider population (Jylhä, 2004; Wenger & Burholt, 2004; Victor et al., 2008).


In a regression analysis the three factors found to predict never being lonely were having less functional limitations, having a person centered plan (PCP) and not wanting to do more activities.

While it may be difficult to overcome a person’s functional limitations staff and services should be aware that increased functional limitations increase the risk of loneliness. Participants with average functional ability, compared to those categorized as good functional ability, were half as likely to be in the never lonely category. Those with poor functional limitations were one-third as likely to be in the never lonely group.


Having a PCP is fundamental to many modern services and 82% of participants in this sample reported having a PCP. People with a PCP were more than twice as likely to be categorized as never reporting loneliness, than those that did not have a PCP. This finding highlights the efficacy of a good plan and further justifies their ongoing development.


The finding that not wanting to do more activities leads to an increased chance of never being lonely also makes sense. This reflects one the central pillars of the Cognitive Discrepancy Approach to loneliness which is that loneliness is experienced when achieved social resources do not match desired social resources (Perlman & Peplau, 1998).


Participants who had experienced changes in family visit rate were over four times more likely to recover from experiencing feelings of loneliness. This reflects the importance of family in the lives of people with an ID, and it is an issue that is commonly dealt with in a PCP planning process.

Degenerative loneliness was predicted by moving within the service organisation. Those who did move within their service structure were nearly three times more likely to become lonely than those that did not. This problem has been raised previously as a potential unintended consequence of current policy (Wormald, 2014). Moving within the service can represent a disruption to the established way of life often found to precipitate loneliness (Weiss, 1973; Victor et al., 2008). Situational life changes such as this have been found to lead to temporary experiences of loneliness from which people recover (Peplau, 1988), whether this applies to this population will be established once wave 3 data is collected and analysed.


The most significant predictors of consistent loneliness were having had a fall in the month before wave 1 and experiencing difficulties doing activities. The effects of having a fall are quite striking in that a person who fell in the month before wave one was three times more likely to be lonely than a participant who did not fall. Loneliness is often brought on by a single precipitating event, having a fall may be such an event. Once people fall they may feel they can no longer attain their own desired social life and may develop a sense of hopelessness. If a fall does mark a decline in a person’s life when they can no longer control their destiny, then staff and services need to be aware of this and give the person help in this transition helping them to adjust their expectations.

To help older individuals with an ID have a positive and healthy ageing experience it is essential they avoid loneliness. Findings from IDS-TILDA suggest that an individualized PCP and stability in their lives will help people with ID avoid loneliness. Staff and service providers should also support individuals in making changes to social networks to better meet social needs. While functional limitations and physical decline are not under direct control of anyone all of us can still be mindful that both reduce the chances of avoiding loneliness and ensure people are given the help they need to adapt their expectations to changing realities.


BROER, T., NIEBOER, A. P., STRATING, M. M. H., MICHON, H. W. C. & BAL, R. A. (2010). Constructing the social: an evaluation study of the outcomes and processes of a ‘social participation’ improvement project. — Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 18, 323-332.References

CACIOPPO, J. T. & CACIOPPO, S. (2014). Social Relationships and Health: The Toxic Effects of Perceived Social Isolation. — Social and Personality Psychology Compass 8, 58-72.

CACIOPPO, J. T. & PATRICK, W. (2008). Loneliness: Human nature and the need for social connection. — WW Norton & Company.

HAWKLEY, L. C., THISTED, R. A., MASI, C. M. & CACIOPPO, J. T. (2010). Loneliness predicts increased blood pressure: 5-year cross-lagged analyses in middle-aged and older adults. — Psychology and Aging 25, 132-141.

JYLHÄ, M. (2004). Old Age and Loneliness: Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Analyses in the Tampere Longitudinal Study on Aging. — Can. J. Aging 23, 157-168.

LAWLOR, B., GOLDEN, J., WALSH, C., CONRAD, R., HOLFELD, E. & TOBIN, M. (2014). Only the Lonely: a randomized controlled trial of volunteer visiting programme for older people experiencing loneliness. — In. Trinity College Dublin, Dublin.

LYNCH, J., J. (2000). A cry unheard: new insights into the medical consequences of loneliness. — Bancroft Press, Baltimore.

MERRICK, J., MERRICK, E., LUNSKY, Y. & KANDEL, I. (2006). A review of suicidality in persons with intellectual disability. — The Israel journal of psychiatry and related sciences 43, 258.

ONG, A. D., ROTHSTEIN, J. D. & UCHINO, B. N. (2012). Loneliness accentuates age differences in cardiovascular responses to social evaluative threat. — Psychology and Aging 27, 190-198.

PEPLAU, A. (1988). 3rd National Conference on Psychiatric Nursing, Montreal Quebec, Canada.

PERLMAN, D. & PEPLAU, L. A. (1998). Loneliness. — Encyclopedia of mental health 2, 571-581.

VICTOR, C., SCAMBLER, S. & BOND, J. (2008). The Social World Of Older People: Understanding Loneliness And Social Isolation In Later Life: Understanding Loneliness and Social Isolation in Later Life. — McGraw-Hill Education (UK).

WEISS, R. (1973). Loneliness The experience of Emotional and Social Isolation. — MIT Press, London.

WENGER, G. C. & BURHOLT, V. (2004). Changes in Levels of Social Isolation and Loneliness among Older People in a Rural Area: A Twenty–Year Longitudinal Study. — Can. J. Aging 23, 115-127.


Author Bio

Andrew Wormald is a part-time PhD student at Trinity College Dublin School of Nursing and Midwifery working as a member of the IDS-TILDA team. His subject is An Investigation of Loneliness in Older People with an Intellectual Disability. He is also an Instructor with the Brothers of Charity Limerick Services where he has worked for 10 years. Andrew graduated from the University of Limerick in 2010 with a First Class Honours Degree in Humanities and Graduated from The Open University in 2012 with an MSc in Psychological Research Methods. Prior to this Andrew worked for The Cheshire Foundation as an Acquired Brain Injury Support Worker and whilst in the UK worked in industry in a senior management role.

Bernie Fay introduces two well-established respite and support programmes which continue to benefit people with disabilities and their families.

  • Homesharing is an idea whereby people in services go and spend the night with a family in the community.
  • It has a great effect on everyone involved.
  • Services providing this have sprung up around Ireland.

The Muiríosa Foundation provides both respite and long-term support though the Share a Break and Room to Share schemes.

The Share a Break scheme has been developing over the past 30 years.  It provides respite in a family setting on an on-going basis to children and adults, the range of intellectual disability being from mild to severe.  The overarching aim of Homesharing is that the person placed feels part of the Host Family.  The processes involved in these schemes should have this as the ultimate aim.

This service allows people to have an individualised form of respite.  The scheme continues to expand each year.  This scheme is administered by the Muiríosa Foundation and funded by the HSE.  The Muiríosa Foundation administers the largest scheme in Ireland:

  • The counties involved are Westmeath, Longford, Laois, Offaly and south Kildare;
  • In 2015, 138 children availed of 5,739 days of Share a Break with 138 hosts;
  • A total of 135 adults availed of 6,682 days of respite under the scheme;
  • There is a total of 218 host families involved in the scheme.

The testimony below illustrates the important role this scheme plays in the lives of people with an intellectual disability and their families.

Catherine Keane (mother of Aidan (aged 10)): “Looking after my son is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding.  He requires a high level of supervision and it is difficult to maintain this on a daily basis.  It is very tiring, especially when you have other children whose needs also need to be met.

I have no family support network to help with his care.  I have come to depend and rely on Share a Break in order to help me maintain the level of care he requires.  Our life is structured around our son.  We have to work around him and his needs.  My other children also have to work around him, in terms of where he can go, what activities he can participate in etc.

Share a Break for me is a break. It is the only time aside from school when my son is away from home.  I do not have to worry.  I know he is safe and happy.  It gives me a day of freedom and a break from routine.  In his absence, the house is more peaceful.  It is even a break from the noise.  I have used this time to do even simple things such as go for a walk, sleep, go into town and walk around the shops with my daughter or go for lunch.  This is time when you know you can plan something, have a rest or just spend time with your other children.

We benefit as a family also.  My daughter can choose a programme on TV.  She recently started ballet.  This would not be possible without Share a Break.  Share a Break gives us the opportunity to experience a little normality – to do things that others take for granted.  I am very thankful for this.  It is invaluable to me and I do not know how I would manage without it”.

Increasingly, families are opting for family-based short breaks rather than seeking residential respite.  However, if some people prefer the latter service, it is important that this remains an option for them.

The Room to Share scheme has been in operation since 1993 and provides long term, permanent care in a host family setting to people aged 18 and over.

Those currently availing of the scheme live in Counties Longford, Westmeath, Laois, Offaly and Kildare.  The range of disability of those who avail of the scheme is from mild to severe.

What is distinctive about the Room to Share scheme is that people live with their host families on a full time, permanent basis.

In 2015, 22 adults lived permanently with families under this scheme.  These people feel part of the host family and this is a mutual feeling.   The testimonial below illustrates the way in which one’s quality of life can be enhanced by this scheme.

Thomas is a 63 year old man who enjoys the outdoor life and is particularly fond of working with small animals and doing gardening.  Six years ago, due to challenges pertaining to his family, Thomas ended up living in a large residential centre.  Those who were living there had needs which were greater than those being experienced by Thomas.  He became depressed and withdrawn.  It was agreed that his quality of life was being compromised by living there. 

Thomas started going for weekends to a respite homesharing family and very much enjoyed this.

His mood changed and it was decided that he would go to live on a full-time basis with this family.  He lives happily with his new family and enjoys time spent with their dogs and loves the work in their extensive gardens.  Thomas enjoys going to football matches with the family and likes the peace and tranquillity of the countryside.  Thomas also attends a day service and likes the time he spends there interacting with friends.

Equity and Inclusion:

The principles of equity and inclusion are realised in Homesharing.  Studies undertaken on traditional respite in comparison to Homesharing models indicate high levels of satisfaction with the latter scheme (Merriman et al (2007), Murphy, T (2010).

It is hoped that this can be expanded further in the future.



Merriman, B. and Canavan, J (2007)

“Towards Best Practice in the Provision of Respite Services for People with Intellectual Disability and Autism”, Galway Child and Family Research Centre UCG

Murphy, T (2010) “Room for One More? – Contract Families Pilot Scheme ’07 – ‘09” Brothers of Charity Services, Galway and Ability West, Galway.

Author Bio

Bernie Fay is Head Social Worker with the Muiríosa Foundation.  She has been working on the Homesharing Projects since 1983.

Kevin Murphy illustrates how he managed to broaden his horizons, meet new people and travel – and all for his love of West Ham Football Club.

  • Kevin has been a West Ham supporter since 1974
  • He has found a supporters club that have accepted him as a member
  • He has travelled many times with them to Upton Park to watch his favourite team
  • He has gained massive independence and confidence and joy from this group he is a part of and made to feel welcome
  • He looks forward to West Ham’s move to their new stadium in 2016

I have been a part of WALK since 2002. Sport is a huge part of my life, particularly football. I enjoy watching football – both through going to games or watching on TV- and talking about the highs and lows the next morning with friends in work. I live in Inchicore in Dublin and regularly take trips on the LUAS to Tallaght to watch Shamrock Rovers, but my club is West Ham United.

I’ve been supporting West Ham since 1974. I’ve been asked ‘’Why West Ham!?’’, but I always enjoyed the style of football they played, particularly under the manager John Lyall. West Ham were relatively successful at the time. They won the FA Cup in 1975 and the following year they got to the European Cup Winner’s Cup Final, although we were beaten by Anderlecht. My father followed Aston Villa, so it was a claret & blue house!

Although I’d been following West Ham for a long time, I never really met other West Ham fans in Dublin. I discussed this with my keyworker at one of my planning meetings in the Summer of 2012.  I thought it would be great to find like-minded fans to meet up and watch West Ham games. A quick Google search later, and The Dublin Hammers turned up!

The Dublin Hammers are a West Ham Supporters Club based in Dublin. They meet up regularly in Branningan’s Bar on Cathedral Street in Dublin City Centre to watch West Ham games. This sounded perfect.

Jimmy Conway was the contact in the club. We contacted Jimmy to get more information about the Supporter’s Club and to express an interest in becoming a member. Jimmy was extremely helpful and said I would be more than welcome to join the Supporters Club.

As the season in England was coming to an end, and wasn’t due to start again until the end of August, I had a bit of time to work on becoming familiar with Brannigan’s Bar and importantly, how to travel there from my house. Over the next couple of months, I worked on figuring out the route and becoming comfortable with travelling it.  This involved getting the Luas from BlackHorse to Abbey Street and identifying landmarks, which would help me find Brannigan’s Bar. I also took the time to get comfortable using my mobile phone in case I needed it.

On 23rd August 2012 – two days before the first meeting of the Supporters Club in Brannigan’s Bar, I travelled independently from Inchicore to Brannigan’s Bar.  I agreed that a staff member would also do the journey, but they would do it a half an hour after I left.  I got the Luas from Blackhorse. I got off at Abbey Street and began looking for the landmarks. The Spire. Check. Burger King. Check. Spar. Check. And there was Brannigan’s. The staff member arrived shortly after. I told them how comfortable I was doing the journey independently, and was looking forward to travelling independently on Saturday and meeting Jimmy and the other Supporter’s Club members.

A couple of months passed and I was regularly travelling into Dublin City Centre to meet up with the Club. I looked forward to the meetings. It was a great atmosphere in the Bar. Cheering every Hammers’ goal and bemoaning every goal against. It was great experiencing these moments with my fellow supporters.

I was turning 60 in May 2013, and I was planning on having a party in the Red Cow. I had invited Jimmy from the Supporter’s Club and I was delighted he was able to make it. It was a fantastic night spent with many of my friends, with the occasional glass of red wine and Neil Diamond sing-along!

That night, Jimmy had mentioned that the Supporter’s Club were running an overnight trip to Cork in July to see West Ham play a pre-season game v Cork City, and asked would I be interested in going. It’s not everyday West Ham come to Ireland, so I was excited about this opportunity and expressed my interest in going on the trip. Jimmy passed on the details and over the next couple of weeks I worked on making the relevant bookings (train tickets, match ticket and a room in The Metropole Hotel in Cork – a beautiful hotel). I intended to travel independently to Cork with the Supporter’s Club.

Jimmy met with a member of staff in WALK to discuss the trip in detail. Jimmy said the other lads in the Club were always very positive about my involvement with the Club and that we were all there for the same reason – to support our team!  Jimmy felt this trip was something I could do without staff support. Jimmy felt that I had settled into the Club well and I was completely comfortable with everyone in the Club too. Jimmy and the staff member exchanged the relevant contact numbers and it was all systems go.

Now, I needed to spend time to figure out how to travel from Blackhorse Luas Stop to Heuston Station because this is where I would be meeting the lads from the Supporter’s Club to catch the train to Cork. I did several trial runs – both with and without staff supporting me.  I was comfortable travelling independently on this route ahead of the match date.

Another thing I worked on was identifying and becoming familiar with things in Heuston Station such as the location of ticket kiosks, platforms and toilets to avoid confusion on the morning of the trip. Jimmy agreed to meet me at the Heuston Luas stop on the morning of the trip, where we would both go and collect our train tickets together. We were able to book our seat together on the train – which was great – as we were able to keep each other company and discuss the game that evening – we were both really looking forward to it!

The trip went well. West Ham won 6-2, so I got to see plenty of goals and a couple of first-team stars were on show, which I wasn’t expecting, and was a bonus! It was great to bond with the lads in the Supporter’s Club too and we still share stories from the trip to this day (What happens on tour though, stays on tour!!!)

Having seen West Ham come to me, it was now my turn to go and see West Ham in London.

I didn’t have long to wait. The Supporter’s Club were running a trip to see West Ham v Aston Villa on at the start of November. The group intended to stay overnight, however I preferred to do a day trip. A staff member from WALK would travel to London on the flight with the Supporter’s Club, and after the game I would arrange to meet the staff member and travel back to the airport to head home.

My deposit for the trip was paid, my seat on the Supporter’s Club bus was booked, my flights were booked, my match ticket was booked and I was all set to go.

On the morning of 2nd November 2013 – a staff member and I travelled to the airport to meet the lads in the Supporter’s Club. We were all booked on the same flight, which was great. Upon touching down in London Stansted, the staff member exchanged numbers with the one of the guys in the Supporter’s Club and we arranged a meeting point after the game.

Unfortunately the game ended 0-0 – there is nothing worse than going to a football game that ends 0-0! The consensus amongst the Group was that it was two points dropped, but I had enjoyed the day and my first experience travelling to London with the Supporter’s Club. I promised myself it wouldn’t be the last.

Over the next couple of months, I continued to travel regularly into Brannigan’s Bar in Dublin City Centre to meet up with the Club and watch games on TV. The Club then announced plans to travel to London in May 2014 to see the game v Tottenham Hotspur – the derby! What a game that promised to be – I knew I just had to be there.

It was very similar to the last trip the Club ran in November 2013. The Club planned on staying overnight, but I preferred to do a day trip. I agreed a staff member would travel with me again to London, that I would head off with the Club for the match and afterwards I would meet up with the staff member to travel home. I paid the deposit and made the relevant bookings. It was just a waiting game now.

The morning of May 3rd arrived and the staff and I travelled to meet the Club – bright eyed and bushy tailed, in Dublin Airport. Again, we were on the same flight and we were all in jovial mood. West Ham v Tottenham is one of the biggest games of the season if you’re a West Ham fan, and I felt really fortunate and excited to be going to see this game. Going into the game, West Ham weren’t playing particularly well of late and Tottenham were in a good run of form, but ever the optimist, I was hopeful of a West Ham win!

On a beautiful summer’s day in East London, West Ham put in a great performance to win the game 2-0. I thoroughly enjoyed the game and it made the journey home a happy one.

I’ve been on three more trips to London with the Supporter’s Club – in November 2014, May 2015 and October 2015. In November 2014, we drew 0-0 with Aston Villa – again! – Which was like déjà vu from my first trip in November the previous year! In May 2015, we were beaten 2-1 by Everton – where I saw my record of West Ham never being defeated disappear! And my most recent – and arguably my most enjoyable – trip was in October 2015, where we beat Chelsea 2-1 in another derby game.

I particularly enjoyed that Chelsea game as the 2015-2016 Season represented the last season of West Ham playing in Upton Park before they moved to the Olympic Stadium in the summer of 2016. That famous old ground has been home to West Ham since 1904. When I went to visit family in London in 1974 – as a student at the time, I went to Upton Park to watch West Ham. 41 years later, I was possibly watching them play in that same old ground for the last time. It was great to win the game on the day to ensure my last memory of Upton Park was a happy one!

When West Ham move to the Olympic Stadium in the summer of 2016, it will open a new chapter in the club’s history and a new opportunity for myself too. I watched the London Olympics on TV in 2012 and was impressed by the stadium. It looked fantastic.

I look forward to my first and many more trips to the Olympic Stadium with the Supporter’s Club to seeing West Ham play.

Author Bio

Hi, I’m Kevin, I live in Inchicore. I’ve got lots of interests: dancing classes, choir, guitar lessons, going out to gigs – anything to do with the music side of things. One of my biggest loves is my work. I work part time in 2 cafes and a bar. I enjoy learning new skills and working as part of a team. I enjoy meeting the customers and looking after their needs. I enjoy the banter with the other staff and the customers. I am also a serious sports fan – soccer, rugby and gaelic. Developing this passion and meeting new people through it is what this article is about.

John Dolan, Seanadóir and CEO of the Disability Federation of Ireland, was successful in his bid for the Seanad in 2016. Here, he outlines his reasons for entering the race...

  • John Dolan works in the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) and he is running for election to the Seanad in 2016
  • One person in eight has a disability so they deserve a voice in the Seanad
  • The economy is getting better so we need to make sure that the disability area gets better funding

I have been asked to outline why I am a candidate for the Seanad election.

Put simply the Dail is the assembly of publicly elected representatives who elect the Taoiseach, eventually, and to whom the Government report. The Seanad is elected by less than 1,200 people, namely the members of every County and City Council, the newly elected TDs and the outgoing 60 Seanad members. Its members are to come from a broad array of areas of Irish society and are required to bring practical knowledge and experience to the work of the Oireachtas, where they complement the membership and focus of the Dail. This has not been the practice to date, as the Seanad is seen and used by political parties to support their desire for enhanced Dail membership.

The sixty Seanad members are spread across five vocational panels along with the two university panels. I am running in the Administrative Panel, which is concerned with public administration and social services.

Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) along with eleven other voluntary disability organisations are entitled to nominate candidates to contest the Seanad election on the Administrative panel. After working with these nominating bodies it was decided that two candidates would be chosen to run, myself and Lorraine Dempsey, Chairperson of the Special Needs Parents Association.

Voluntary disability organisations have always comprised the majority of the nominating bodies. Over the years, with this in mind and being well aware that disability is a major societal issue, it was easy to come to the conclusion that the Seanad is a legitimate and potentially powerful place for the disability inclusion voice to be heard. One person in eight, 600,000 people, have a disability and then there is the impact on their families and loved ones.

The outgoing Government has recently, and eventually, committed to ratification of the UN CRPD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities); Ireland has stopped being in recession; The severe cuts to services and incomes for people with disabillities, and the growing numbers – these were all critical reasons for me in putting myself forward to seek election. Allied to this we were hearing that the recovery had arrived and now there are constant demands by public servants and others for the restoration of pay levels and for increased spending on a range of public services. Quite simply, the voice of the 600,000 needs to be heard also.

All was far from well for disabled people and their families before the recession. Ireland was only at the start of a journey to ensure full and equal inclusion. We did not hear about too many disabled folk losing jobs throughout the recession simply because they were not in jobs to begin with.

There is another element to my reason to seek to be in the next Seanad. DFI ran a strong public campaign,, in order to have disability inclusion as a core part of the focus of the new Government. Having someone from the broad disability movement in the Seanad would further support that objective. That campaign seeks a Cabinet Minister for Disability Inclusion to drive and co-ordinate a whole-of-government approach to ratification and implementation of the UN CRPD and an Oireachtas committee on disability Inclusion as well as the immediate reversal of the cuts that have taken place as a start on the road to inclusion.

Author Bio

10 - John Dolan - DFI and the Seanad Elections 2016

Senator John Dolan is CEO of the Disability Federation of Ireland, and was a successful candidate in the 2016 Seanad Éireann elections.
Twitter: @SenatorJDolan


Why we should all support the Love Not Hate Campaign – by Ian McGahon of Sunbeam House Services...

love not hate
  • Inclusion Ireland recently signed up to the Love Not Hate Campaign
  • It is a campaign to bring in a new hate crime law in Ireland
  • People with disabilities do get targeted (sometimes violently) in hate crime
  • In the UK, hate crimes against people with disabilities have included
    • Adam Pearson being told on a YouTube comment he “should have been burned to death at birth” because his face is disfigured
    • Christine North, an intellectually disabled woman, being urinated on while she lay dying in July 2007
  • We should all support the Love Not Hate campaign

Recently, Inclusion Ireland signed up as a supporter to the Love Not Hate Campaign. What exactly is the Love Not Hate Campaign? Why should it be supported by people with disabilities and disability advocacy and human rights organisations? Why do we need the campaign in Ireland and what does it propose?

Love Not Hate is a campaign led by ENAR (European Network Against Racism) Ireland and its Action Against Racism Group. It is a campaign to bring in hate crime legislation in Ireland. Most European countries have laws on hate crime but, uniquely, Ireland does not. The campaign proposes a law in Ireland that provides for sentencing to be increased and for crimes to be treated as more serious if prejudice or hate can be shown to be a motive.

A hate crime is, typically, a violent crime motivated by prejudice, when a perpetrator targets a victim because of their perceived membership of a certain social group. People targeted by hate-motivated crime in Ireland are usually from an ethnic minority background (racist hate crime), from a religious minority (religious hate crime), Lesbian, gay or bisexual (homophobic hate crime), Transgender (transphobic hate crime), People with disabilities (disablist hate crime).

Disablist hate crime or hate crime where people with disabilities are targeted because of their disability is something that rarely gets discussed or highlighted in public or in the media. In the UK it has become a growing phenomenon, because the public discourse has turned against people in receipt of state welfare support and portrays them as scroungers and spongers, and certainly people who use wheelchairs are violently targeted.

Adam Pearson, a UK actor, highlighted the issue last year on BBC3. He has a severe facial disfigurement and was told on a YouTube comment he “should have been burned to death at birth”. No action was taken by the state or YouTube on this despite, as Pearson points out, the fact that perpetrators of racist online comments on Twitter have been prosecuted.

Pearson now campaigns on the issue of disablist hate crime, and has highlighted several cases. Kevin Davies, an epileptic aged 29, was kept in a shed by “friends” where he was fed on scraps and beaten for weeks before he died in 2006. One of his torturers kept a diary of the abuse. Christine North, an intellectually disabled woman, collapsed and lay dying in Hartlepool in July 2007, neighbour Anthony Anderson urinated on her. He also egged on a pal to film the incident.

We are all probably very aware of hate crimes that target migrants, black people, Muslims, refugees and lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, but honestly, how many of us really take the issues of disablist hate crime seriously? Until approximately 3 years ago I didn’t take it too seriously as an issue either. Since then I’ve seen it in voluntary work that I do with the Council of Europe’s No Hate Speech Movement and I’ve also seen it in my own day job. I work with people with intellectual disabilities, and have been told of several cases of verbal abuse and harassment (thankfully nothing seriously violent).

When I was researching this article, I found 2014 statistics on hate crime in Ireland published by the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). To me they were startling, and showed that we in Ireland do not take this issue seriously at all. The OSCE found two things: one, that 53 crimes were recorded by Gardaí as having a bias motive, and two, that 171 crimes were recorded as having a bias motive by NGOs and civil society organisations. Only 1 of these 171 was recorded as a disablist hate crime. At face value, this may suggest that disablist is not a big problem in Ireland. However, delving further into this it is clear that dozens of hate crimes were obviously not reported to the Gardaí. Additionally, when we look again to the UK, the police there found in a 2013 report that disablist hate crime was not taken seriously enough in how it is prosecuted.

I was personally involved in researching hate crime against LGBT people in Dublin in 2006, and we found huge under-reporting. Considering all of this (the OSCE data, the UK experience and my own personal experiences of researching hate crime against LGBT people and being aware of people with disabilities subject to verbal harassment), I firmly believe that Ireland is not taking the issue of hate crime seriously. We need to update our hate crime laws, and disablist hate crime needs to be firmly recognised.

The Love Not Hate Campaign is something all of us should be supporting.

We need to send a clear message that racism, homophobia, transphobia, disablism and hate have no place in our communities and that our society must be inclusive of all.

We need to update Ireland’s hate crime laws for many reasons.

We must break the silence on hate crime, encourage people to report it, and find effective ways to address all forms of prejudice.

For more information on the campaign see

Author Bio

ian mcgahonIan McGahon works in Sunbeam House Services, supporting people with intellectual disabilities. In his spare time he is a campaigner on various equality and human rights issues. He volunteers with No Hate Speech Movement, a Council of Europe youth campaign promoting human rights online. In particular he has campaigned on LGBT rights and led the Yes Equality marriage equality referendum campaign in Co Wicklow.

Chris Lowe draws an interesting correlation between environmental and disablement concerns, and argues that rather than being distinct, the two may be mutually complimentary – it is necessary to consider both when legislating for change to improve conditions for people with disabilities, and for society as a whole…

One thing is certain; disabled people of all sorts need to be involved in environmental politics, because if we’re not part of the conversation, decisions that divide us will be developed. “Nothing about us, without us”.

As a disabled person who has had an interest in environmentalism for a while, one thing has always struck me – whenever the issue of climate change comes up, someone will always raise the issue of population control. These tend to be isolated voices, and the discomfort of other environmentalists is usually clear because when they say there are too many people it usually means other people, usually the poor, those living in poorer nations and disabled people. It also distracts from solutions to important areas such as carbon policy. These fringe environmentalists can generally be described as Malthusians and offer us a stereotype of environmentalists. Notable Malthusians who have taken anti-disability positions include animal rights ethicist Peter Singer (who argued for the killing of disabled infants), the anti-technology primitivist John Zerzan (notable for his use of the term “pull the plug” in  relation disabled people), self-proclaimed eco-fascist Pentti Linkola, the right-libertarian Garret Hardin (whose support for The Bell Curve and its pseudo-scientific linking of IQ and race puts his earlier calls for sterilisation based on intellect in a particular light).

The Malthusians draw on the ideas of Thomas Malthus, a cleric who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. European society had seen the French Revolution sweep away the old order of nobility, and monarchy. Malthus, a supporter of conservatism, believed that Revolution could be avoided if population could be limited through natural checks and that Government intervention should be as limited and unappealing as possible. If that failed, revolution and famine were inevitable consequences. Subsequent generations took up his ideas and while he himself would now be identified as pro-life, many in the eugenicist movement who called for compulsory abortions and sterilisation identified as neo-Malthusians. His ideas of making what we now know as welfare as deficient as possible, anticipated and at times influenced the development of the workhouse and other systems of confinement, as well as having similarities with the current unproven claims of “scroungers” and “strivers” that come from the centre right parties. By the mid-twentieth century, a number of ecologists such as Garret Hardin and Paul and Ann Ehrlich, embraced it with an environmental gloss. The argument was still that an ever-growing population was competing for ever scarcer resources.

Most environmentalists are not Malthusian. The former leader of the Irish Green party, John Gormley, writing in the September 2015 issue of The Village expressly condemned the reactionary politics which both opposes immigration and calls for compulsory abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia in the case of disability and old age. The eco-socialist movement takes a similar line, calling instead for the changing of society, and while focusing on opposition to anti-migrant and pro-population control in the third world, their position can easily be adapted to a social model position. The problem, as eco-socialist Ian Angus points out, is not the inadequate resources but their unequal allocation; in other words, we need a system change, which is precisely what we argue for with the social model of disability.

While not all environmentalists are Malthusian, the casual ableism that we see elsewhere in society is present here. Even among the most radical you do see here the usual ableist terms, and those who don’t, often exclude us completely from their analysis. Less equality-orientated environmentalists fall into anti-vaccine conspiracy theory territory, with claims like the one that such-and-such a chemical causes autism. To some, this presents a barrier to activism in these spaces. Others including myself see this as making our involvement more important, as we need to ensure that future environmental policy includes disability-safe positions. Our American counterparts have developed the politics of eco-ability, which takes as a starting point a respect for difference and an opposition to the idea of the normal. Eco-ability specifically comes out of animal rights activism and academia, in which many of the same ableist ideas circulate, and it provides a space for disabled people in which we can both interact with and critique ecological politics.

While opposition to ableism is mainstream disability thinking, some of the positions taken within eco-ability are likely to be controversial even within our own groupings – the extension of the politics of disablement to animal rights, for one thing. Other ideas are useful, such as linking the need for assistive and other technologies to be developed as environmentally sustainable, non-harmful to people and promoting interdependence, as well as its linking of ableism to intersectional systems of inequality, power, and social control, including those that operate at a global level.

Alex Ghenis of the World Institute on Disability specifically links the issues of disability and climate change. He does this in two ways; firstly, that more people will develop impairments through injury, disease, malnutrition and as a consequence of conflicts and wars caused by climate change. The current Syrian conflict provides us with a concrete example of a war having partial roots in climate change. Secondly, disabled people will be excluded through inaccessible shelters or fragile support systems, and suffer negative health effects. This will also impact climate migrants, who already face barriers due to immigration policy (including Ireland’s continuing love of locking people into institutions, in this case direct provision), and if they have impairments they face inaccessible accommodation, transport and an ableist and racist state bureaucracy. During the recent passing of the International Protection Bill, it was suggested that it would exclude disabled migrants from family reunification. Ghenis’ own solutions involve managing these systems, such as easier-to-access welfare systems, increased employment, and accessible housing.

In some respects, his solutions seek to assimilate us into mainstream society rather than substantially change society. The social model has always offered us an analysis of how the built environment can exclude us, the use of a town built by wheelchair users to explain the social model, and why removing socially-created exclusions shows us this. We don’t have to use exaggerated stories – we can see this in our everyday lives and the development of Ireland’s built environment.  For example, Ireland is incredibly car-centred, in part as a consequence of the deliberate policy of suburbanisation; for someone like me, whose impairment prevents me from ever driving, this combined with increasing public transport costs potentially excludes me from full participation. Many solutions to Ireland’s car dependency and society’s carbon footprint suggest cycling as an activity which specifically excludes many (though by no means all) disabled people. Likewise, a car-free scheme in areas of Dublin City excludes disabled people who require the use of their cars. An environmental- and disability-centred approach to this could see, for example, a public transport system that is accessible physically, financially, and in terms of connectivity and frequency. It would also involve greater emphasis on developing local economies, and having an impairment-flexible built environment.

The social model and environmentalism have one important link – both require system change. For the social model, this has always meant seeking a barrier-free utopia so that limitations placed on us over our impairments are removed. One thing is certain; disabled people and our allies, across all impairments, need to be involved in environmental politics, because if we’re not part of the conversation, policies that segregate us again will be developed. As environmental policies and climate change concern us all, we have a strong reason to invoke the old slogan: “nothing about us, without us”.

Author Bio

Chris Lowe is an independent
(unemployed) disability researcher, currently awaiting a
non-disability related viva at Maynooth University.


Adrian Noonan, self-advocate PRO at Inclusion Ireland, wishes for greater awareness of the needs of people with intellectual disabilities at all levels of the democratic process.

People with Intellectual disabilities are not supported to register to vote, or to vote, in Ireland.
Disability services have used staff shortages as an excuse.
People with intellectual disabilities have a right to use their vote,.
People with Intellectual Disabilities need to be trained & educated on how elections work.
All buildings have to have wheelchair access, and putting in easy-read and visual and audio aids can easily be done nowadays.
Voting for the first time is a very nervous and scary time .

People with Intellectual disabilities are not supported or encouraged to register to vote, or to vote, in Ireland by government or their agencies, who can set up and organise, advertise and have training workshops around the country.  This could be done with the help and support of disability advocacy organisations.

Disability services have used staff shortages as an excuse. But it only takes one staff member to go on a computer or go to the local library to get a printout of the voting forms and bring the voting forms to their clients or disability service users who want to vote.

Disability services can also have workshops on voting in their service, by inviting disability advocacy groups in on training, and educating clients or disability service users on their right to vote and have their say.  People with intellectual disabilities have a right to use their vote, to have a say in who they want to represent their issues and needs on a local and national level.

People with Intellectual Disabilities need to be trained & educated on how elections work, and why and how many times they’re called.

When you go to the polling Station, you have to bring I.D to prove who you are. Mostly you bring your passport or driving licence and have your voting card with you, or you can’t vote.  All polling stations open from around 8am to 10pm, so people who work or go to college can vote.

Persons with intellectual disabilities should not be stopped in their right to vote. It is our right to vote and no barriers should be in the way, like accessibility to buildings.

All buildings have to have wheelchair access, and putting in easy-read and visual and audio aids can easily be done nowadays.

Voting for the first time is a very nervous and scary time for people with intellectual disabilities.  All the polling stations should be given disability awareness training to educate the staff on how to be more supportive, and the polling station can be more disability-friendly by having an easy-read platform and visual and audio aids in the polling station.

Author Bio

Adrian Noonan is PRO of  The National Platform of Self-Advocates, the self-advocacy committee of Inclusion Ireland, and Seasamh, the Kilkenny-based self-advocacy group.

Mei Lin Yap takes the opportunity in her latest Frontline contribution to detail her likely doorstep questions for politicians in the upcoming General Election in early 2016.

  • If a politician called to your door, what would you say to them?
  • My name is Mei Lin Yap and I am a young woman with Down Syndrome. I WANT TO BE A CITIZEN, JUST LIKE ANY OTHER!!
  • I would like to be treated like any other citizen; I feel people with disabilities are not respected, valued, by our society.
  • Are you prepared to ensure equal access to education and employment for people with disabilities?
  • People with disabilities need equal access to education and employment. They can bring a range of skills, talents and abilities to the workplace.
  • When I look in the mirror I forget that I have a disability.
  • Everyone should feel valued in society. We need a voice.

If a politician called to your door, what would you say to them?

My name is Mei Lin Yap and I am a young woman with Down Syndrome. I WANT TO BE A CITIZEN, JUST LIKE ANY OTHER!!

I would like to be treated like any other citizen; I feel people with disabilities are not respected, valued, by our society.

Why has the government not ratified the UN Convention on Rights for People with Disabilities?

The Irish government agreed The Convention of Human Rights of People with Disabilities in 2008, but have not yet ratified it.  This is needed to protect our rights in law. We all should be valued by society. Everyone in the world deserves to be treated fairly and equally.

Are you prepared to ensure equal access to education and employment for people with disabilities?

People with disabilities need equal access to education and employment. They can bring a range of skills, talents and abilities to the workplace. However, support for both employers and employees with disabilities is essential if employment opportunities are to be successful.

When I look in the mirror I forget that I have a disability. Even though I am aware that I have Down Syndrome, and that affects my understanding, I know I have a lot to offer. I want equal access to education, employment and healthcare.

Everyone should feel valued in society. We need a voice. We don’t all need others to make decisions for us, but we may need support in making our own decisions. NO MORE PROMISES. THE TIME IS NOW!!

Author Bio

mei-lin-yapMei Lin Yap is a regular contributor to Frontline Magazine Ireland, with a keen interest in the rights of people with disabilities, particularly with regard to access to education and employment.

Orlaith Grehan of Áiseanna Tacaíochta brings us on an inspirational journey, acknowledging pivotal moments in history and showing the crucial part that community plays in shaping our future.

Martin in front of Capitol building
Martin Naughton and his team travelled to America to travel the path of Martin Luther King Jr. in a bid to raise awareness of peoples rights here in Ireland. It has been 50 years since the famous Selma to Montgomery march, led by Martin Luther King and 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed.

2015 marks the anniversaries of two seminal events in civil rights and disability history which have shaped the way we all live today.

This year has focused world attention on the 50th anniversary of the historic Selma to Montgomery march, led by Martin Luther King, which united the civil rights movement in America by securing, at last, voting rights for the country’s African-American citizens.  It also celebrates 25 years since the passing of the influential Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ultimately brought about when disability activists took action in an event known as the Capitol Crawl to demand recognition of their equal rights.

For us here in Áiseanna Tacaíochta (ÁT), we wanted to not only pay respect to the courage and sacrifices of the people who inspired the progression of the rights that we hold dear and continue to fight for today, but to learn from them and to strengthen the bonds which loop between the rights movements here in Ireland and in the United States (US).

So, in late March, we left for American shores in our ‘Two Hearts Beat as One’ endeavour.  Although we were a small team – made up of our co-founder and Director, Martin Naughton, and his team of Personal Assistants (PAs), our Project Development Coordinator, Niall O’Baoill, and myself – we had big ambitions.  In a month-long, symbolic journey designed to connect with the key leaders and locations associated with these remarkable moments in time, we set out to honour the initiative and resilience of those who stood up – and continue to stand up – for full equality and human rights.

martin and his posseArriving in New York, we travelled down to Washington DC and on to Atlanta, Georgia, a landmark city in civil rights history.  There, we visited the Martin Luther King Center, met with disability activist and ADA campaigner Mark Johnson, and engaged with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Moving on to Selma, Alabama, we commemorated the pivotal march to Montgomery by undertaking the full, 50-mile length of the walk ourselves over four days; with plenty of visits from disbelieving State Troopers and double-takes from locals who marvelled at the sight of our unusual group walking along the edge of a highway in thirty degree heat, it was quite the experience!  Arriving at the State Capitol building on April 4th, the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death, marked a powerful moment for us all.

ann codyThe next week brought us on, then, to Washington DC, where we met with the influential disability activist – and current Special Advisor on International Disability Rights to the US Government – Judith Heumann, and delivered a presentation on Independent Living and the impact of the ADA in Europe to the State Department.  Making a stop in Philadelphia to meet with the Irish-American Congressman Brendan Boyle, we wound our way back to New York to gather with some truly innovative disability campaigners, before heading to our final destination of Boston, where we met with the Mayor, Marty Walsh.

So, why this journey at that time? Well, America holds a special importance for us, as it was there that our co-founder Martin, who had lived in institutions for people with disabilities up to that point, first experienced Independent Living while on a visit in the 1980s.  He brought the concept back here to Ireland, establishing the first Center for Independent Living (CIL) in the country in 1992, and continued on to eventually set up ÁT, the first organisation in Ireland to give complete control of individual budgets to people with disabilities and their families.  In their own ways, these marked vital milestones for the disability community in Ireland, ones which were guided and motivated by our Stateside peers; it was for this that we recognised the crucial opportunity to cement the relationships we have with them in this commemorative year.

Martin crossing bridgeBut, more than that, we wanted to raise awareness and support for a new, emerging movement for people with disabilities here in Ireland.  We shared our message and everything we encountered across social media as we travelled, calling on society to come together again and support a renewed cry for equal rights for disability communities everywhere as our journey went on.

That, in turn, led to us echoing and commending the values and experiences we came across in America in our A Declaration of Independence: The First Assembly event in Athlone in June.  Having looked to and met with those who generated their moments in time in America, we created our own, bringing hundreds of people with all types of disabilities and their communities together for the first time.

At the end of the day, it’s up to us to shape our own future.  Some of us may come from different backgrounds, live with different disabilities or come across different hurdles in our lives, but, at the core, we are all the same: we are all people whose rights are not being either recognised or realised, and we are the ones who, together, can turn that around.

martin and DAG

Those values grounded our journey to America, and will ground everything we do and seek to achieve each day.  Communities, when they come together, can spark a flame of change that genuinely brightens the future for us all.  By honouring those communities which did just that, we hope our journey throws light on their achievements, and ignites a united and rejuvenated determination to make equality, inclusion and independence the reality for every person with a disability in Ireland.

Author Bio

Orlaith Grehan is Communications Officer with Áiseanna Tacaíochta (ÁT).

Áiseanna Tacaíochta is the first organisation in Ireland to offer Direct Payments to people with disabilities and their families, enabling them to take control of their own budgets, their own services and, ultimately, their own lives.
For more information, please visit or call 01 525 0707.
More information and photos about the ‘Two Hearts Beat as One’ journey to America is available here.