Editorial: Election Promises – Meaningful or Hollow?

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Photo: Theresa Thompson
This issue has a number of articles on the upcoming spring election. Politicians will be falling over themselves trying to convince constituents to vote for them, on the basis that they have the best contribution to make for our collective wellbeing. Their promises will be breathtaking but worth very little—as the nation knows from countless past elections. At the end of the day what happens on the ground very much depends on the incoming Taoiseach’s priorities—consequently, all a voter can do is to keep mentioning the disability sector to hopeful candidates and draw their attention to specific shortfalls in their local areas. Information received for this issue of Frontline from political parties has been short on specifics and costings.

Many people were invigorated at the last election by promises of transparent and open government—to transact business in a very different way. Hand on heart, can it be said that this government has been, in fact, any different to previous ones?  Yes, some good things have happened for people with disabilities—the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) legislation was at last passed on the last day of the Dáil before Christmas. There will, however, be unforeseen costs associated with the implementation of this legislation, and who will bear those costs?

In the last year, significant difficulties have been identified—by HIQA and investigative journalism—in some residential services. Is it possible that the service providers or the HSE did not know some of the identified difficulties? If known, was it just indifference that prevented energetic interventions? Has the cost of HIQA to services bled core budgets to the extent that the person with a disability is less well served? The absence of some parallel funding to support the implementation of HIQA standards has challenged service providers to retain all those necessary interventions and supports in very straitened national financial circumstances. After years of cutbacks, there is a need for services to renew, energise and push the boundaries of what is possible.

In her article, Máiríde Woods rightly queries whether this space, over the last twenty years, has already been well occupied. Is it time to be looking at alternative models of service delivery that foster individual living solutions,placing the person at the centre? Yes, considerable resources are allocated annually to disabilities, but is the money spent achieving the maximum outcomes? There are so many questions that still need to be asked, but transparency (not only from government, but also from service providers) has not always inspired our confidence that they will be answered.

Can we be confident that politicians seeking election or re-election will have learnt from the past and have the courage to deliver on their doorstep promises, or will we continue to have the same disappointing mediocrity and indifference?

Disabilities, now more than ever, need strong, courageous leaders,capable of pushing the boundaries, and fearless in striving to reach new frontiers. Is this too much to wish for this Christmas?

Beannachtaí na Nollag agus na hAthbhliana.

Stephen Kealy.

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