Back in March 2002, we were asked if we wanted to be part of a project called Diversity in Dialogue. We knew that it was a project about speaking out on our rights, but we had no idea where it would take us!
A group of ten people were chosen from a number of applicants, to take part in the project. We started by meeting every week and learning about how to change things in our lives that we were not happy with, through self-advocacy.
In Dec 2003 we travelled to a conference in Portugal where we met with the other members of the project. They were from LEV in Denmark, Mencap in Wales, Fenacereci and Inclusion Europe.
Meeting everyone was great and it was a chance to learn about the different issues for people in their own countries and the different views people have.
Even though we didn’t agree about things all the time, we got on very well and had some good nights out!
After Christmas it was back to work and time to prepare for our work-experience placements.
Some of the things people did were working for a local paper—or meeting the Mayor of Newbridge! Some people got to visit the Dáil where they met Ministers Tim O’ Malley and Willy O’ Dea.
During the year, our group worked with one of KARE’s managers on an easy-to-read version of KARE’s five-year strategic plan. Seamus Doyle and Mary Fox were chosen to spend a week in Brussels on work placements.
David Leigh was a member on the projects management committee and he attended meetings—keeping an eye on everything.
In July 2004, we were planning for the project’s public hearing in the European Parliament in Brussels. All the groups were there, and David Leigh spoke on behalf of the Irish group, with Seamus Doyle delivering the resolution calling on MEPs to make changes in their own countries to make things better for people with learning disabilities. It was about MEPs hearing what we have to say. It was our chance to have a voice in the European Parliament.
Irish MEPs Brian Crowley and Kathy Sinnott were very supportive, but unfortunately other Irish MEPs were not. Mr Prionsias De Rossa told us he would not be in Brussels at the time—but we saw him in the European Parliament when we were going in. That really annoyed us.
Since this, we have established ourselves as a self-advocacy group called SURE, which stands for ‘Standing Up for Rights and Equality’.
We want to help others. The aims of our group are:
- To give a voice to people in their service.
- To be a part of our communities.
- To be heard in the Dáil.
The chairperson of the group is Declan Dowdall and our secretary is David Leigh. Currently our other members are Seamus Ryan, Ben Hogan, Mary Fox, Margret McGarvey, Ann Darby and Seamus Doyle.
If you want any more information, please go to www.did2.org.