Springtime

by Stephen Kealy

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Spring is a time of renewal – a wonderful vibrant season breathing life into a dormant landscape. New growth covering discarded rubbish in hedgerows and areas of national beauty. But, unfortunately, that rubbish will remain unless people take personal responsibility for their behaviour. Spring sees gardeners taking great care with tender shoots, hoeing weeds to ensure fragile plant life is not heedlessly comprised or strangled.

Spring sees a new government ready to nurse a fragile economy, a nation with a collective unease for the future, but also a determined nation—one that can embrace change and committed to making things better. The programme for government holds out a hope for change for people with disabilities and it signals movement on standards, individual funding and capacity legislation.

President Mary Mc Aleese officially launched Inclusion Ireland’s 50th anniversary celebrations in the National Library on 20 January, marking the foundation of the association. She highlighted the organisation’s many achievements, secured by the generous voluntary engagement of so many people throughout the country for a vulnerable group within society. President Mc Aleese emphasised the ever-important need to foster voluntary contribution in many different national groups.

Issue 82 of Frontline has a number of articles dealing with relationships, sexuality and sexual preference. Current legislation (and indeed the absence of legislation) would have us believe that a person with an intellectual disability is asexual. Yes, there is a need to ensure people with intellectual disabilities, as a vulnerable group within our society, are protected from sexual exploitation. Preventing exploitation of people generally is a collective responsibility and requires robust vigilance and actions. But vulnerability of itself is not a reason to assume that some people in our society are asexual.

Parenting is a challenge for any couple or single parent, and it can be particularly challenging for people whose life experiences and opportunities have been curtailed by poverty, lack of opportunity, unemployment or limited education. People with intellectual disabilities as parents, like other vulnerable groups in our society, need to be actively supported as parents. This, too, is an ongoing challenge for our society and support services.

Ger Mingogue’s interview restates what is only correct—‘nothing about us without us’. He clearly identifies the contribution that a person with an intellectual disability can make to foster the understanding of many. Patricia Noonan Walsh identifies the need for ethics to permeate our approach to research and health, in meeting the needs of people with intellectual disabilities. The health challenge is to ensure that as the promised primary care teams become a reality, that all the team members are fully cognisant of the needs of people with disabilities in their community.

Autumn will see Inclusion Ireland closing its 50-years celebrations. And vegetation will die off, exposing once again the litter in our hedgerows and national beauty spots. But we must hope that the goals for people with disabilities expressed in the programme for government will continue to bloom and grow, long after the springtime of the new administration.

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