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Irish seminar explores role of Local Government promotion of disability inclusion

Image shows group shot of seminar participants
© College Photography Ltd
Professor Gerard Quinn (NUIG), Deputy Michael D Higgins Foreign Affairs (Spokesperson for the Labour Party), Deirdre de Burca (Advocacy Co-ordinator CBM Ireland), Mayor Rony Molina (San Jose de Buena Vista Province, the Philippines), Dr Eamon O'Donohue (Ophthalmologist), David McAllister (National Director CBM Ireland), Barney McGlade (CBM Co-ordinator, the Philippines), His Excellency Ariel Y Abadilla, (Philippines Ambassador to Ireland), Mary Keogh (PHD student NUIG), Mrs Ging Molina (San Jose de Buena Vista Province, Philippines)

On 6th December 2010 CBM Ireland jointly organised a seminar in Galway, exploring the role of Local Government in promoting disability inclusion.

Mayor Rony Molina (from the Philippines) and his wife Ging Molina were the Keynote Speakers, and the seminar featured many other distinguished guests including representatives from a number of organisations within Ireland.

The day consisted of four working sessions, and its success has inspired plans of a larger event next year.

Goal - Promotion of CRPD in Ireland

Three men behind a desk; thoughtful, interested expressions ©College Photography Ltd
David Mc Allister (National Director CBM Ireland), Mayor Michael Crowe (Galway City Council) and Professor Gerard Quinn (Centre for Disability & Law Centre, NUIG)
In order to reach one of its strategic objectives - to catalyse ratification and implementation of the CRPD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) in Ireland - CBM Ireland knows that extensive cooperation with other organisations and individuals will be required.

To this end, and to coincide with International Day of Persons with Disabilities they organised a seminar in Galway on 6 December 2010. This was a joint venture with the Centre for Disability Law and Policy based in the National University of Ireland (NUIG).

The seminar was entitled 'The Key Role of Local Government in Promoting Disability Inclusion - Ireland and the World' and Mayor Rony Molina - a dynamic statesman from the Philippines - was invited to speak to about his promotion of a disability-inclusion agenda in his province of San Jose de Buena Vista.

Distinguished guests included His Excellency Ariel Y. Abadilla (Philippines Ambassador to Ireland), Deputy Michael D Higgins (Labour Party Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs) and representatives from other organisations within Ireland, as listed below.

Aims of the seminar and Keynote comments

Rommel Abuyen - who survived the floods caused by the Philippines typhoon in September 2009 - works for CBM partner 'Livelihood for Persons with Disability' in Manila
The purpose of the seminar was to highlight the importance of the CRPD as an international policy framework that can unite disability activists and campaigners around the world. The seminar also aimed to provide an opportunity to reflect on the experiences of local government in promoting disability inclusion in Ireland and the developing world.

Mayor Rony Molina, during his keynote address, said that the creation of fully inclusive societies is a global challenge that has yet to be achieved. He told seminar participants how he had used his executive powers to ensure that people with disabilities in his province in the Philippines are included in the social and economic life of their communities. He emphasised the important role that development aid has in improving the living standards for people with disabilities who are recognised globally as the poorest of the poor.

David McAllister (National Director of CBM Ireland) said that the Philippines faced many of the same challenges as Ireland in trying to include people with disabilities fully in the lives of their communities. He further stressed, "It is important now that Ireland maintains the strong partnerships with the developing world that it has cultivated over the years. A real partnership is one that survives, and is even strengthened by difficult periods."

Mrs Ging Molina said that as a woman with a disability since birth, she could never have imagined that she would one day be in position to travel to Ireland to speak at a seminar about disability. She said that the positive attitudes of her family who treated her like every other child meant that few barriers were put in her way as she was growing up.

Details of the four sessions of the seminar

Catherine Naughton, Director CBM Brussels Office, speaking publicly ©College Photography Ltd
Catherine Naughton, Director CBM EU Liaison Office in Brussels, speaking during the seminar
Session 1: 'Disability Inclusion – a local or a global issue'
The session was chaired by Catherine Naughton who expertly integrated the different perspectives presented by Galway City Mayor Michael Crowe, CBM National Director David McAllister and Professor Gerard Quinn of the Centre for Disability and Law Policy, NUI Galway. The issues covered by speakers included the CRPD, the importance of maintaining partnerships with the developing world during times of economic recession, and the key role of local government in ensuring that international and national policies translate into local actions that impact positively on the lives of people with disabilities.

Session 2: 'Promoting disability inclusion in Ireland and the EU – how can good practice become the norm?'
The session was chaired by Sinead O'Donnell, a disability activist studying in NUIG. Speakers included the County Manager and Access Officer of Cavan County Council, Galway City Council’s Access Officer and a representative from the European Research Centre. According to the speakers, the issues that are central to good practice in disability inclusion are official attitudes to disability, political will and universal design. Speakers also emphasised the importance of consultation with, and the participation of people with disabilities in all matters that impact on them and their lives. There appeared to be a general consensus that participative processes were as important in empowering people with disabilities as the eventual achievement of good outcomes.

Session 3: 'How effective are partnerships between Disabled Persons Organisations and Irish Local Government?'
It was chaired by Mary Keogh, disability activist and PHD student with the Centre for Disability Law & Policy. The speakers included a range of representatives of DPOs (Disabled Persons' Organisations) who participate in various partnership structures with local authorities. The session interrogated their experiences of working with local authorities. While the feedback was broadly positive, similar themes were highlighted by speakers including the central role of official attitudes to disability, the importance of participation by people with disabilities in all decision-making that affects them and the need for adequate resourcing of disability- inclusion initiatives.

Session 4: 'Disability Inclusion – can Ireland learn from the developing world?'
Chaired by Déirdre de Búrca and the speakers included Mike Davies, Programme Director CBM UK; Barney McGlade, CBM Community Co-ordinator, the Philippines; Mayor Rony Molina of the San Jose de Buena Vista Province, the Philippines; Mrs Ging Molina, disability activist in the Philippines and Deputy Michael D Higgins, Labour Party Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs. (Unfortunately Fionnuala Gilsenan,Director of Civil Society Unit, Irish Aid, had to cancel out as poor weather conditions meant that she was unable to travel to attend the seminar).

This final session provided an important opportunity to highlight the impressive and low-cost model of Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) being successfully implemented by Barney McGlade and his team working for CBM in the Philippines. It also allowed Mayor Rony Molina and his wife to describe the effective strategies that they use to promote disability–inclusion in their province. This session helped to illustrate how developed countries like Ireland have much to learn from good practice in disability-inclusion initiatives in developing countries such as the Philippines. (Some speakers questioned whether it would not be more appropriate to refer to 'low-income' countries rather than 'developing').

A successful event inspires future plans

©College Photography Ltd
Barney McGlade (CBM Co-ordinator, the Philippines), Bill McAllister (National Director CBM UK) and Ben Gobin (Programmes Director, CBM Ireland) discussing the seminar
The seminar was considered a successful event and attracted an enthusiastic response.

CBM Ireland now intends to build on these achievements to organise a similar, but larger event next year, targeted at national parliamentarians and policy-makers. They view this as a critical part of the process of helping CBM and its allies to raise awareness of the CRPD in Ireland and to achieve its ratification and full implementation within a reasonable time frame.

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