Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) passed a motion at SU Council this evening to lobby the government for rights for people with disabilities, and in particular for the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). The motion was proposed by Niamh Herbert, a first year European Studies student and co-founder of the charity ‘Disability and I’, which aims to promote promote advocacy for people with disabilities. The motion was seconded by TCDSU Welfare Officer Aoibhinn Loughlin.
Ireland signed the CRPD in 2006, but remains the only country in the European Union not to have ratified it. Herbert and a group of students also organised a protest outside the Dáil, which took place on January 19th, and have since been invited to Leinster House to discuss their concern.
In May, the government promised that they would ratify CRPD within six months. Speaking to Trinity News at that time, Herbert said that TD Finian McGrath had promised her last August that the convention would be ratified by Christmas.
In an interview with Trinity News earlier in the year, Herbert, who has Friedrich’s Ataxia, spoke of the discrimination that she had faced since coming to Trinity: “Coming to college and living on my own has really opened my eyes to the stigma and blatant discrimination against those with disabilities – I’ve been turned away from clubs and bars because they have no lift and they were trying to ‘protect me.”
Speaking at the council, Herbert called for collective action from students to help pass the legislation: “It’s not going to get passed if only one person does this.” Méabh Cullen, the TCDSU Officer for Students with Disabilities, highlighted the stalling around the legislation by various government ministers.
The CRPD would give disabled people in Ireland human rights and anti-discrimination protections under the law. Without it, universities and businesses cannot be held legally accountable for not extending services to people with disabilities. Herbert and Loughlin described it as a “vital piece of legislation”.
Loughlin, who seconded the motion, has been advising Herbert about bringing a motion to Council, before being asked to second the motion. Speaking personally to Trinity News earlier in the year, she said: “Many of our ‘invisible’ disabilities go unnoticed by staff and students alike, and are subject to disapproval and stigma because of this. These include disabilities such as mental health conditions, chronic pain syndromes, sensory issues, and learning disabilities but to name a few. These are often as debilitating as any obvious disability and thus all persons with a disability deserve the same opportunities and rights as any other individual.”