A motion will be brought to Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) by a group of students in Hilary term to pressure the government to ratify the UN Convention of Rights for Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Ireland signed up to the framework in 2007, but remains the only European country not to make it legally binding. The group of students, lead by first year European Studies student Niamh Herbert, has also organised a protest on the same issue outside the Dáil on January 19th. Speaking to Trinity News, Herbert explained that “they’ve taken ten years to ratify it – in most countries it’s taken two…I am getting increasingly impatient about this. In August, the TD Finian McGrath promised that the Convention would be ratified by Christmas – it hasn’t been.”
Discussing her plan to bring a motion to TCDSU Council, Herbert said that previous student campaigns inspired her, referencing Repeal the 8th and Students Against Fees. She went on to say “when students get together and fight for something, they actually can do it. I’m just hoping to get all of the colleges and universities involved in this because there are so many disabled students whose needs are not being fully met – like mine aren’t, for sure.” Herbert, who has Friedreich’s Ataxia, said: “I really think it’s time to just take a stand and get angry about how our needs are being neglected.”
When asked if she felt that College should do more for those students with disabilities, Herbert said “putting pressure on the college is a priority,” pointing to serious access problems in the GMB. “The college isn’t doing what they can. I’d like the SU to rally behind the students and help them get things done.”
Herbert, along with Laura Beston, have founded a charity called ‘Disability and I.’ Their objective is to “provide awareness to the people of Ireland about the different disabilities here in our society, and to provide a platform for the advocacy of rights for people with disabilities.”
Aoibhinn Loughlin, TCDSU Welfare Officer, has been advising Herbert around bringing a motion to Council. “I advised them on how to put a motion through council mandating the SU to lobby the government to ratify the UN convention of rights for persons with disabilities.” Although the motion has yet to be formally brought, due Michaelmas term ending and the intervening break, Loughlin has said she will “indeed second the motion if asked to.”
She went on to say she “personally believes that despite our college services’ tremendous efforts, students with disabilities are not given the adequate support required to study in full time education, both in academics and extracurricular activities. 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.”
The next SU Council takes place on January 24th.