A Voice at the Government Table for Disability Inclusion

John Dolan, Seanadóir and CEO of the Disability Federation of Ireland, was successful in his bid for the Seanad in 2016. Here, he outlines his reasons for entering the race...

  • John Dolan works in the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) and he is running for election to the Seanad in 2016
  • One person in eight has a disability so they deserve a voice in the Seanad
  • The economy is getting better so we need to make sure that the disability area gets better funding

I have been asked to outline why I am a candidate for the Seanad election.

Put simply the Dail is the assembly of publicly elected representatives who elect the Taoiseach, eventually, and to whom the Government report. The Seanad is elected by less than 1,200 people, namely the members of every County and City Council, the newly elected TDs and the outgoing 60 Seanad members. Its members are to come from a broad array of areas of Irish society and are required to bring practical knowledge and experience to the work of the Oireachtas, where they complement the membership and focus of the Dail. This has not been the practice to date, as the Seanad is seen and used by political parties to support their desire for enhanced Dail membership.

The sixty Seanad members are spread across five vocational panels along with the two university panels. I am running in the Administrative Panel, which is concerned with public administration and social services.

Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) along with eleven other voluntary disability organisations are entitled to nominate candidates to contest the Seanad election on the Administrative panel. After working with these nominating bodies it was decided that two candidates would be chosen to run, myself and Lorraine Dempsey, Chairperson of the Special Needs Parents Association.

Voluntary disability organisations have always comprised the majority of the nominating bodies. Over the years, with this in mind and being well aware that disability is a major societal issue, it was easy to come to the conclusion that the Seanad is a legitimate and potentially powerful place for the disability inclusion voice to be heard. One person in eight, 600,000 people, have a disability and then there is the impact on their families and loved ones.

The outgoing Government has recently, and eventually, committed to ratification of the UN CRPD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities); Ireland has stopped being in recession; The severe cuts to services and incomes for people with disabillities, and the growing numbers – these were all critical reasons for me in putting myself forward to seek election. Allied to this we were hearing that the recovery had arrived and now there are constant demands by public servants and others for the restoration of pay levels and for increased spending on a range of public services. Quite simply, the voice of the 600,000 needs to be heard also.

All was far from well for disabled people and their families before the recession. Ireland was only at the start of a journey to ensure full and equal inclusion. We did not hear about too many disabled folk losing jobs throughout the recession simply because they were not in jobs to begin with.

There is another element to my reason to seek to be in the next Seanad. DFI ran a strong public campaign, DisableInequality.ie, in order to have disability inclusion as a core part of the focus of the new Government. Having someone from the broad disability movement in the Seanad would further support that objective. That campaign seeks a Cabinet Minister for Disability Inclusion to drive and co-ordinate a whole-of-government approach to ratification and implementation of the UN CRPD and an Oireachtas committee on disability Inclusion as well as the immediate reversal of the cuts that have taken place as a start on the road to inclusion.

10 - John Dolan - DFI and the Seanad Elections 2016

Senator John Dolan is CEO of the Disability Federation of Ireland, and was a successful candidate in the 2016 Seanad Éireann elections.
Twitter: @SenatorJDolan