Although this is written as we stare into imminent war internationally and budgetary stringency domestically, we’re also witnessing the last crescendo of preparations for the celebrations of the Special Olympics World Games 2003. The citizenries of the 130 host towns are getting their tongues around foreign phrases and polishing up their ‘fáilte’. Host families have been told who may be coming to breakfast, and they’re polishing up the spare room. Coaches are boning up on rulebooks, and drivers on maps (How DO you get to Abbotstown??). Volunteers are queuing up by the thousands at training sessions. And the swimming lanes are ready and waiting!!
Capturing the imagination? That’s not the half of it! The Special Olympics have captured our time, our energy and our money. Rightly, because they’re worth it! We’ll all be doing our best to make the Games a lifetime-special experience for the athletes and their families, from home and abroad.
We hope that some of the visitors to the Games will see a copy of this issue of Frontline, so they can meet the people with intellectual disabilities featured in our Focus on People—Robert, Gerry, Lisa and Stephen; and the Grand Canal bargees, the cast of Encore Productions and all the service users at last November’s conference. They’re ordinary people, like their neighbours, getting on with their lives. And that’s just as it should be—ten or fifteen years ago, as Mitchel Fleming writes (p.11), they might have been limited by institutional living and an inflexible pattern of services.
Frontline has often included articles with, and sometimes by, people who avail of Irish intellectual disability services, but this is the first issue that features two pages specifically designed for service users. We have had several suggestions that we do this, so we were delighted when Liza Kelly, namhi’s new Advocacy Officer, offered to facilitate these pages. She introduces herself (p.8) and invites groups/individuals in services to share views and news of their activities with each other through the magazine. To start off the feature, Anne Marie O’Connor reports on some of the concerns of the people at CWCW (New Ross). Please, everybody, ‘get on board’ (as EYPD2003 says) and get talking and writing up what you have to say. We don’t want to see two blank white pages 8 and 9 in the summer issue of Frontline!
As mentioned above, we’ve recently had to take our eye off the ball—round or oval!—to face up to the realities forced on us by the government’s harsh fiscal decisions. All agree that budgetary prudence is required, and indeed there are many instances where we feel money could be better spent or saved—ministerial transport and the hiring of public relations services come to mind. We do not begrudge the money spent on the Special Olympics World Games, but the athletes and their families’ right to a good quality of life won’t end with the Closing Ceremony on 29 June. We won’t countenance one drop of smugness from politicians or public—the fact is that drastic improvements are needed for the quality of daily life of many Irish people with intellectual disabilities.
There was one word noticeably absent on the impressive banner displayed on Dawson Street at the Irish launch of EYPD2003 (see picture, p.5)–respectABLE. People with an intellectual disability give respect; equally they have a right to receive respect!