IVORY TOWER AWARDS

by Patricia Noonan Walsh, Director, UCD Centre for the Study of Developmental Disabilities

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Was it an ivory tower? It was the top floor of a Georgian building on Dublin’s William Street, heated chiefly by the energetic debates of its Saturday morning inhabitants and mugs of instant coffee. Why create a magazine in the area of mental handicap, anyway? Who would read it? What might it include? Oh, yes it should, Oh no, it shouldn’t. A cover story about a family from Kerry? A launch in Belfast, of all places?

And so it came to pass.

Since that winter of 1988/89, Frontline’s editorial board members have come and gone. Its new subtitle reflects current thinking and useage—hardly anyone uses ‘mental handicap’ any more. The fortunes of people with developmental disabilities, their families and friends have ebbed and flowed. Even Europe has changed: who saw Kazakhstan, Moldavia, Bosnia and a united Germany in our futures ten years ago? The European Union grew in 1995, admitting Sweden, Austria and Finland to make up the fifteen Member States. And opportunities for every citizen in Ireland to enjoy full social inclusion have fulfilled all dreams—haven’t they?

One of the original members of the editorial board has moved to another ivory tower, this time in far-off academia. From this lofty spot, she proposes the first-ever Ivory Tower Awards. Each award is presented to players who took a leading part in the awkward, joyful, frustrating, noble and lasting moments, weeks and years of the past decade, pushing out the front line of action on behalf of people with developmental disabilities.

Outstanding young actor, 1993: Paul O’Donoghue of Cork, who took on the State with a little help from his mother Marie, and won.

Best Choreography: The self-advocacy movement, for changing our ideas about who leads and who follows.

Best actor in a supporting role: Nick Maxwell, for his dedicated interpretation of a script just three words long—quality, quality and quality.

Best new theme song: The European Union, for declaring in 1996 that its new model of disability is driven by human rights, not charity. It doesn’t really matter that not everyone seems to know how to sing along—yet.

Best international performer: Jean Kennedy Smith, the former Ambassador of the United States, a true friend and champion for people with developmental disabilities and their families, in Ireland and everywhere.

And last, but never least—Best Screenplay using just one word: Chris Conliffe, Belfast, for reviewing the editorial board’s aims for the new magazine one winter morning and suggesting Frontline at its title.

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