Inclusion Ireland hosted local elections hustings events in Offaly, Cork and Sligo this week in advance of the local elections, next Friday 24th May. The events were an opportunity for people with disabilities, family members and supporters to meet some of the candidates running for election and to ask them questions.
On Tuesday 14th May, Inclusion Ireland welcomed 7 local candidates and almost 50 people with disabilities, family members and supporters to their Offaly Election Hustings. All local election candidates in Offaly were invited, and it was encouraging that most of the major parties were represented. Present on the day were Clare Claffey (Social Democrats), Deirdre Fox (Fine Gael), Catherine Traynor, (Fine Fail), Pippa Hackett (Green Party), John Leahy (Renua), Tony McCormack (Fianna Fail) and Robert McDermott (Fianna Fail). Brendan Galvin (Renua) and Ken Smollen (Irish Democratic Party) had committed, but were unable to attend due to work and volunteering commitments.
The event was moderated by Michael Tobin, Tullamore resident, Parent of a child with disability, and Head of Department of Lifelong Learning at Athlone IT .
Each candidate spoke about their experience and awareness of disability. Questions from the audience focused on accessibility of public areas and buildings in Tullamore and Edenderry, provision of social housing, employment opportunities and supports, funding of services and inclusion of people with disability in local government planning and decision-making.
As the event ended, audience members met and talked with candidates and picked up information about voting and the upcoming elections from Inclusion Ireland and Disability Federation of Ireland, with PJ Cleere, Development Manager with the Disability Federation of Ireland also present on the day.
On Tuesday 14th of May 2019, seven candidates running for local election in the Cork City North West Constituency visited National Learning Network in Hollyhill for a questions and answers event focusing on disability issues. Damien Boylan (Fine Gael), Luke Carroll (Labour), Mark Cronin (Green Party), Tony Fitzgerald (Fianna Fáil), Thomas Gould (Sinn Féin), Julie O'Leary (Fine Gael) and Fiona Ryan (Solidarity- People Before Profit) all attended. 96fm's PJ Coogan was MC on the day.
The event was a partnership between disability organisations including DFI, Cork CIL, National Learning Network and Inclusion Ireland.
Issues such as accessibility, funding for services, benefits, transport and bullying were all hot topics. Of particular concern to attendees was consultation and participation of people with disabilities at City Council. To this end, all candidates present, if elected, committed to creating a committee at Cork City Council tasked with dealing specifically with disability issues and also recognising that human rights and equality are important for all government activities and departments and not just the Department of Health.
Attendees were encouraged by the interest, enthusiasm and commitment of candidates and it was a very successful event.
Local elections candidates were put through their paces in Sligo as they responded to questions from disability advocates at a hustings on Thursday 16 May at the Northside Community Centre. Organised jointly by Inclusion Ireland, Irish Wheelchair Association and Disability Federation of Ireland, the event was chaired by local journalist, Sorcha Crowley and attended by over 30 people with disabilities and disability advocates.
The audience asked a range of questions. Accessibility was a common theme. One woman talked about not being able to enter the local theatre, the Hawkswell, through the front door due to inadequate access. Others spoke about the poor state of footpaths which resulted in one man losing a wheel off his wheelchair. Attendees also called for more accessible information, showing examples of standard images that could be used. Some talked about not being able to read bus timetables and in relation to candidates’ own election posters breaking the rules in terms of accessibility standards.
Many were critical that the Council is not doing enough to employ disabled people in the Council.
Many of the candidates said the hustings was very useful in listening and learning more about the specific issues faced by disabled people. While the Council has ‘consultative committees’ it was noted that these need to be more effective and accessible in the way they work. Many of the issues raised at the hustings are actions outlined in Sligo County Council’s recently launched ‘Disability, Inclusion and Access Strategy’. A test of the newly elected Council will be their commitment to implement the actions. Candidates committed to follow up on specific actions, if elected. Time will tell.
Read more about Inclusion Ireland's local and European elections campaign at this link