Thomas Pringle TD

Thomas Pringle TD – Disability Services

I am happy to contribute on this motion because it is very important. It is with a sense of pride that I support it but I do so with sadness as well. I feel pride because this is a vitally important motion and it is important that my name and signature is on it. I thank Sinn Féin for offering the motion to all Opposition Members to sign. The sadness is due to my having spoken about disability services 23 times in the previous Dáil. I spoke then with the help of an activist, Frank Larkin, who has since died without seeing the full implementation of the UNCRPD. Perhaps it was naivety as well. We will probably end up speaking about disability services 23 times in this Dáil and 23 times in the next Dáil and, unfortunately, we will still be in the same situation. That is sad. It is no reflection on the Minister of State. She will do the best she can with what she has but as a State and as a Government overall, we do not give people with disabilities the respect they deserve.

Sadly that has been seen with the implementation of UNCRPD which was ratified by Ireland 17 or 18 years after it was introduced. That is an absolute disgrace and we should all be ashamed of ourselves that that is the situation we got into. The previous Minister gave many perfect and great excuses as to why that happened and why the wait was necessary and all of that kind of stuff. I do not believe it was necessary. If we had been serious about it we would have adopted and ratified the convention on the very first day and then worked to implement it. Instead we said we would ratify it and then dawdled along implementing it and every time it was raised we perhaps got a little more until eventually, we got to a situation where it could be implemented. That is sad and we should not have to do that. Hopefully, we will get to a situation in this Dáil or in the next where we do things because they are the right thing to do, not because they will cost money or impact on the budget.

We should do them because as a society they are the right thing to do. It would make a huge difference if we get to that.

The motion speaks about the impact Covid is having on services and it is impacting hugely on people with disabilities and disability services. As the Minister of State and all of us in the House know, it is having a huge impact. With regard to the wider dispute in recent days with NPHET and everything else, how we deal with Covid will have a huge impact and it will have an ongoing impact on people with disabilities because at the rate we are going, sadly, we will be dealing with Covid and going into and out of lockdowns for the next three or four years. Will we be sitting here during that time waiting to see whether the Government will get disability services back up and running? I do not think we can wait that length of time. It is important that we do not do so and that we get ourselves together and do this now. They are depending on us to provide the services and we are not doing it. That is sad. I hope we will get beyond that and that we provide the services.

How we treat our weakest members is a sign of us as a society. People need our support to lead their fullest lives and that is all the motion is talking about. What we are doing at present is restricting these people from being able to get the most out of life that they can. We do not have to do this and it does not have to happen. I hope the Minister of State will deal with it on her watch and that it will not move on to the next Minister of State and we will not have to stand here in the next Dáil speaking about the same thing. I hope it will not come to that. This falls on the Minister of State. We will try to make sure it happens.

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