2015 Annual Review
Issued on September 28 2016
The Annual Review is an important opportunity to reflect on the progress of the Strategic Plan 2011 – 2016 and Operational Plan 2015 -16. It also gives us the opportunity to highlight key areas of work and specific instances that occurred during the year.
Our work is to ensure the progressive inclusion of people with disabilities in Ireland. In this regard our Memorandum and Articles require us to focus on supporting Ireland to become an accessible and welcoming place where people with disabilities can flourish and thrive.
I wish to highlight a number of areas but otherwise the Review will provide the full report for the year. It is useful to remember that, as company members, you are also receiving regular progress reports on the implementation of the Operational Plan 2015-16 in the Strategic General Meetings.
The overreaching focus of 2015 was our preparation for the General Election, a considerable amount of work was invested into researching and developing the Disable Inequality campaign and in engaging with the political system to highlight the needs of people with disabilities. Significant planning took place during the year and this proved critical in its subsequent roll out in 2016 with the calling of the general election. Through this campaign we have successfully developed a model for public engagement which has the involvement and life experiences of people with disabilities at the heart of it. It provides us with the confidence and platform from which to launch further campaigns. Disable Inequality was a well-resourced and public campaign, centred around people with disabilities. It, along with deciding to take a disability focused approach to the Seanad election, were two critical decisions taken in 2015 which mark a distinctive shift in the way DFI intends to operate.
Late in the year the Government published a roadmap to ratification in relation to the UN CRPD and committed to ratification of the UN CRPD by the end of 2016. Shortly afterwards the Assisted Decision Making Bill was passed by the Oireachtas.
Significant work progressed from the local, through the national and on to the European level. While change needs to happen at the local level, where people live, it is becoming more and more the case that what happens at European and national levels greatly determines what will be available in local communities. Our understanding of the lives of people and families gave us the knowledge of the extent of the continuing attrition taking place in communities and therefore limiting the lives of people with disabilities and their families. By focussing on key areas such as those with disabilities who, under 65 years of age, were inappropriately placed in nursing homes, DFI was in a position to inform the media and general debate on this in the autumn and to drive this policy agenda.
The adoption of the DFI Sustainability and Growth Plan by DFI at the start of the year was crucial to developments throughout the year. It refocused our energies on a small number of critical areas under the banner of DFI becoming an "Agency for Cultural Change". It complemented and gave focus to the work in areas such as education and training, research and in our ongoing relationships with affiliate organisations. That plan, which had strong support from both staff and board, has provided a clear focus along with a growing confidence in relation to the critical work of DFI to bring change to every aspect of Irish life. In this regard it builds on our core objective, as agreed at the 2014 AGM, namely to support Ireland to fully include people with disabilities.
We came into the year with the revelations of abuse in Áras Attracta and the disturbing coverage of growing levels of hate crime, both of which generated significant public debate. These demonstrate the level of cultural and social change required to ensure that people with disabilities are understood and treated as equal citizens in their own communities. Building on our commitment to act as an agent for cultural change DFI placed particular emphasis on engagement with local and national media on a wide range of issues from disability legislation, DFI’s analysis of the Government’s legacy to disability, the events as they unfolded in Áras Attracta as well as a wide range of policy and budgetary issues. This enhanced the public understanding of disability and complemented our proprietary work for the General Election.
I want to mention two recent developments in 2016, namely the formation of the new Government and the election of our CEO to Seanad Éireann. There are many commitments to disability and mental health in the Programme for a Partnership Government yet there is scant detail concerning implementation. It is a significant achievement that there is now a Minister at the Cabinet table with a specific disability remit. We must not take the view that progress in these areas will deliver the services and supports that need to be restored after the recession, never mind the serious lack of services that are also there. Ireland continues to be constrained in relation to the availability of public funds and there is serious competition for that funding. DFI will continue to advocate for prioritisation of resources to services and income supports instead of pay restoration across the public services beyond what has been agreed. More service provision is urgently needed as there has been no improvement in the lives of people with disabilities and there is no likelihood of same for some time given the rising demand for such services and competing areas for funding.
The successful campaign by John Dolan that saw him take a seat in the Seanad marks an historic highpoint for our movement. This is the first Seanad general election that returned a vocational non-party candidate. He got elected on the strength of votes from across the political spectrum and allied to that ten of the nominating bodies worked together to support the nomination of two disability focused candidates, the other being Lorraine Dempsey. That also was an historic achievement. We now have a platform within the Oireachtas to help push on the work of getting the UN CRPD ratified but more important to getting the real day to day life changes that are required for people to be able to live with dignity and to participate fully.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank my colleagues on the Board of Directors for their hard work and commitment throughout the year, noting the work of the subcommittees and in particular Gary Lee who took over from Cliodhna O’ Neill as Chair of the Governance Compliance Committee and Don Bailey, who continued as Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee. I would also like to acknowledge the work and service of my fellow officers, John O Sullivan and Barbara O Connell, Vice Chairpersons. Otherwise I make particular mention of Mike Glynn, recently retired CEO of Epilepsy Ireland and long serving member of the DFI board who stood down this year. Mike has faithfully served DFI since he first joined the Board in 2004 and has also contributed to a number of our Board Committees, most recently as Chair of the Premises Committee and also on the Governance and Compliance Committee.
A special word of thanks to John Dolan, CEO, the management team and staff for their focused commitment to the work of DFI in a year where there were significant and long lasting developments.
It was a year that saw the sad passing of a member of our board, Joe T Mooney. Joe along with a former company member, Dermot Walsh passed away during the summer period.
Joe and Dermot can be described as two great disability advocates, but to me I prefer to identify them as fearless warriors who took the fight for disability inclusion to wherever it needed to be. They were also joined by Frank Mulcahy, who had not been active in recent years due to ill health. Frank, former Chairperson of IWA, was one of the founders of the European Disability Forum in the late 90's.
I knew and worked with Joe and Dermot in DFI. And I have heard so much of Frank through my work in EDF. He was a leading figure in the formative days of EDF and he is still well remembered and respected for his contribution.
To their families and those who loved them is given the greatest loss to bare but for all of us who worked with them goes the loss of great leaders and role models. May they rest in peace while they continue to inspire the next generation.