Cllr Watters Looks Forward to Making Louth a Disability Friendly County

antoin-and-jimNew Sinn Féin Councillor Antóin Watters has hit the ground running as he attended his first full County Council meeting this morning.

The Dundalk Carlingford Councillor who replaced Cllr Jim Loughran on his retirement, hasd a motion before the Council this morning calling for Louth County Council to ‘begin the process of developing a Disability Action Plan for Louth’.

Speaking after his motion was passed, Cllr Watters said “I appreciate that Louth County Council is meeting its legal obligations regarding disability in the county but more needs to be done. I welcome the fact that Louth Council staff are willing to meet with me to discuss my proposals with a view to bringing a report back to the full Council.

“My aim is to improve the day to day life of people with disabilities in Louth. We need people from the public and private sector to get involved and we need to hear from all disability groups as to how we can make this county better for all, how we can make public amenities and areas accessible to all. There are things that I and others can take for granted and not realise that someone with a disability is excluded for whatever reason.

“Cavan County is a ‘Disability Friendly County’ and there is no reason why Louth can’t be also. This is an equality issue and everyone has the right to access public amenties/services/areas.”

Disability rights and inclusion Conference – Adams TD

gerry-adams-disability-rights-and-inclusion-conferenceDisability rights activists from North and South are today attending a conference on disability rights and inclusion in the Carrickdale Hotel in north Louth.

The conference, is organised by Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson, who is the vice president of the European Parliament’s disability intergroup. Among those participating are Les Allamby from the Human Rights Commission, Monica Wilson from Disability Action, Julie Ward MEP British Labour Party, Kate Beattie Barrister, Senator John Dolan, CEO Disability Federation of Ireland and An-Sofie Leenknecht, Human Rights Officer with the European Disability Forum.

Opening the conference Sinn Féin leader and Louth TD Gerry Adams called on the Irish government to “urgently clear away any outstanding obstacles to the signing of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which was signed by this state nine years ago. The failure of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael led governments to ratify is disgraceful.”

Gerry Adams said:

“It’s not easy being a citizen with a disability. All you want is fair play. An equal chance. Regrettably, government policy hasn’t made that a reality for many. In fact, three-quarters of disability service users are not satisfied with the level of control they have over their own lives and citizens with a disability suffer among the highest levels of consistent poverty.

People out of work due to illness or a disability are five times as likely to be at risk of poverty and survive on the lowest annual average disposable incomes, compared to other socio-economic groups. That has been compounded by years of service cutbacks and lack of service provision.

The CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions shows that more than half of people who are not in work due to disability or illness are experiencing enforced deprivation.

They cannot afford the very basics such as heat in their homes, food on the table and appropriate clothing, not to mention having minimal opportunities for social inclusion.”

The Louth TD cited local examples of disabled citizens not being allocated the resources they have a right to.

“The cancellation of respite provision at St. Mary’s in Drumcar and the non-continuance of funding for the WalkPeer Project, which supports people with disabilities to access employment and education, are causing severe difficulties and frustration.

The WalkPeer programme enables young people with a disability to access opportunities in mainstream education, training and employment within their communities.

It was one of the fourteen Disability Activation Schemes jointly funded by the Department of Social Protection and the European Social Fund. The government withdrew funding for such schemes, in a move that made no sense whatsoever. Only the Louth project has survived.

I have met Minister Finian McGrath many times on this issue. Its future is still uncertain.

Another massive issue was the scrapping of the Mobility Allowance Scheme and the Motorised Transport Grant Scheme, on which thousands of disabled citizens depended. Some 5,000 citizens are still in receipt of these grants, but there have been no new applicants since 2011. Government claims of putting an alternative in place have produced nothing in that period.

But perhaps the clearest evidence of the government’s failure to support citizens with disabilities has been its failure to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Irish State signed the Convention in 2007, but it is the only EU member state that has not yet ratified the Convention. That’s not acceptable.”

Concluding Gerry Adams said:

“We cannot have a fully inclusive republic without respect for diversity and the achievement of social equality by citizens that have been excluded. We have to be about ensuring equal rights and equal opportunities for all citizens. This means ensuring that citizens with disabilities, can play a full and independent part in all aspects of life, relying, as far as possible, on mainstream services for health, education and employment but with the support of tailored disability services where necessary.”

Disability Access Improvements For Dundalk – But Not For Drogheda – Imelda Munster

imelda photo orangeSinn Féin Councillor Imelda Munster has congratulated councillors in Dundalk for putting their discretionary fund allocation towards a project that benefits their entire town and surroundings areas.

Councillors in Dundalk had voted to use € 49,000 of a discretionary fund to ‘improve disabled access’ throughout the north Louth area last month.

Cllr Munster said “This will make a huge difference to everyone in the area. Last Monday evening, Dundalk councillors were given a list of 37 projects of works due to be started which will see improvements throughout Dundalk, Knockbridge, Carlingford, Blackrock and Omeath. The permanent infrastructure will enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities making access to footpaths and roads safer for wheelchair users, people on mobility scooters and parents with prams or trolleys.”

“The best part about this list of works is that not one cent from their discretionary fund is being spent on planners, reports or bonuses, every bit of it is going into the works to benefit the people of the area.”

The Drogheda Councillor went on to explain “this is a discretionary fund of €50,000 that is given to the three Municipal Councils and it is up to the councillors how they wish to spend it. Unfortunately in Drogheda, Sinn Féin’s proposal to make Drogheda a ‘Disabled Access Free Town” was voted down.  The discretionary fund will instead be diluted down into 10 parcels of €5,000 for each councillor to add to their community allocation grants.”

Each Councillor already gets almost € 3,000 annually  to donate to community groups and charities.

“The discretionary fund would have afforded Drogheda Council the opportunity to spend it on something that would benefit everyone rather than have it spread so thinly that it’s not going to make much of a difference. The Councillors will now have €8,000 to donate to community groups and charities. This was a chance to get away from dividing the money up for pet projects and a chance to make a real difference. Once again, I congratulate councillors in Dundalk who are working together for their constituents who are going to get great value for money with improved infrastructure. I’m just sorry I haven’t the same good news for Drogheda.”