By Us With Us
The By Us With Us Committee was supported by the Center for Independent Living during the course of it’s work in 2017. The Committee was comprised of:
- Eileen Daly, Chairperson
- Nial O’Baoil, Director
- John Doyle (RIP)
- Hubert McCormack
- Audrey Brodigan
- Michelle Gaynor
- Sarah Fitzgerald
- Roisin Dermody
In Their Names In Our Time
On the 23rd of September 2017 212 people with disabilities, their supporters, family, and friends gathered in the Round Room of the Mansion House in Dublin. The invitation only event was billed as the first of its kind to be organized for people with disabilities only. Poignantly, it reflected on the tireless contributions of seven disability advocates: Martin Naughton, Donal Toolan, Michael Corbett, Ursula Hegarty, Florence Dougall, Dermot Walsh and Joe T Mooney.
Input by Hubert Mc Cormack for “In Their Names – In Our Times”
To ensure the event was as inclusive as possible the day was organised as a meeting in friendship and affection both in memory of those disability leaders that have died while being equally conscious of the need to reawaken a peoples disability movement suited to current times. The mixture of music, testimony, speakers and debate was designed to allow for consideration of our IL history, our current reality as the sole country in the EU yet to ratify the UNCRPD, and most importantly the task of regenerating a new form of leadership capable of advancing our call for true equality.
The names in the title which we refer to here today: “In Their Names – In Our Times”, are the names of people with disabilities who were very important and significant players within the disability movement and beyond, who with others, were responsible for shaping and transforming the way in which we as people with disabilities in our time, can now live in this country today.
These names were the names of my colleagues. They were the names of my mentors. They were the names of my peers. They were the names of fellow activists. And most importantly to me, they were the names of my friends, because I personally knew six of the seven people whom we remember here today.
I’ve known Ursula and Martin since childhood. We grew up together in a residential setting in the northside of Dublin. We had the same disability, shared many similar life experiences and became involved with various disability issues and support groups, which led to the establishment and growth of many of the services which as people with disabilities can now enjoy today.
Joe T and Florence were also extremely close friends of mine for over 30 years. We met through our involvement with Muscular Dystrophy Ireland, an organisation which myself, Ursula and Martin had joined in 1980. Here again, because of similar life experiences, a special relationship unfolded between all five of us and a unique network of support and fabulous friendships were born. Although we didn’t know if at the time, this in turn would ignite an initial spark which would eventually lead to the establishment of many of the services which we enjoy today.
And it was through my involvement with the Irish Wheelchair Association that I got to know Dermot and Donal in the mid 1980’s, and it was probably a similar passion for rights and equal opportunities for people with disabilities that was the common denominator which led to these lasting friendships.
Although our paths may have crossed briefly on one or two occasions, Michael is the only individual of the seven people whom we are honouring and remembering here today that I sadly never got to know personally. This was obviously due to geographical reasons as we both lived on opposite sides of the country. But Michael was as passionate and dedicated to the struggle to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities, especially in rural Ireland.
Collectively, for all of the seven people whom we are remembering here today, I believe that it is extremely important that we remember how all of their actions, their battles and their sacrifices brought about significant changes for the benefit of all people with disabilities who live in this country today and in our time. Their names must never be forgotten. Their values and views must always be etched and engraved in our times.
- We must never forget the battles they fought
- We must always ensure that what they fought for will remain intact and progress
- We must never forget the sacrifices they made
- We must never take for granted the services that we enjoy today
- We must keep our fallen friends dreams and aspirations for the future alive
- We must continue in their footsteps and remain focused to ensure that people with disabilities in this country and elsewhere, can live a life equal to that of or non-disabled counterparts
- We must never forget the seven people whom we remember today.
In Their Names – In Our Times. By Us / With Us
Ursula was a friend for 40 years. She died back in 2006. She was a fellow founder of Centre for Independent Living here in Ireland and her background was similar to mine in that we grew up together in a residential setting in Baldoyle, North Dublin. Like me, Ursula’s involvement in the movement was greatly influenced by close friends who considered Independent Living to be the best way of progressing forward. Ursula had “Fight” and from an early age, she believed in equal treatment for all. Breaking down barriers within the walls of institutions, fighting for simple privileges which many would now take for granted, and ensuring a good quality of life for all were just some of the issues which Ursula had to fight for before addressing her own personal needs, which saw her secure full-time employment, buy a house, marry and live life to the full.
Martin was like my big brother. I knew him since childhood. I always looked up to Martin. He always encouraged me to get involved in projects which would inevitably lead to bigger and better things! Martin took a genuine interest in anyone he met. The first real project which we worked on together was the setting up of the INCARE programme, a new venture at the time that would lead us to becoming significant players in the establishment of the Independent Living Movement here in Ireland in 1992. We started this process in the late 1980’s.
Martin was a tireless campaigner for disability rights and the road we travelled together over a 40 year period was an amazing voyage. There are too many stories to tell, but all of these journeys which we embarked on will always remain with me.
I first met Donal in the late 1980’s and I remember him as being a very entertaining, enjoyable and political person to be in the company of. I was in awe at how articulate he was back then and we all know how he developed and used this talent to push for rights and equal opportunities for disabled people through his work on the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities and his involvement with the establishment of the Forum of People with Disabilities and the Centre for Independent Living, to name but a few.
Donal was a very creative and talented journalist and actor and I had the pleasure of seeing him perform in many shows over the years (one of which I played a part in, which was nerve-wrecking but very enjoyable). I have many happy memories of Donal and one which I will always cherish was of when he officiated at the launch of my CD “Look Deeper” in December 2003 (along with our good friend Martin). Donal brought out the fun in all of us. I will always remember his wit, his one liner’s and his impersonations. He was a tonic for us all.
Florence (Flo) was a close friend for over 30 years. We met at an MDI meeting in the Ormond Hotel in Dublin in 1984. The fact that we too had the same disability and had very similar life experiences up to then, was probably one of the main reason why we hit a chord which sparked of a friendship that was to last for the next 32 years.
Florence was a true advocate and supporter of disability rights and she channelled all her energies into ensuring that organisations such as MDI and CIL would continue to be the unique and member led organisations that they are today. She was one of the first group of people with disabilities in Ireland to secure the services of a Personal Assistant (PA) back in the early 1990’s as part of the “Operation Get-Out” programme. Flo embraced this new lifestyle with passion and she always shared her experiences and encouraged others to do likewise.
As a classy lady, Flo treated everyone in the same way as she would like to be treated herself. She had very high standards and if something wasn’t right she would have no difficulty in letting you know this, one of her many great qualities.
Joe T Mooney
I first met Joe T back in 1986 when we both travelled to Holland (by rail and ferry) to represent Muscular Dystrophy Ireland (MDI) at a European Youth Camp. This was a fabulous adventure and proved to mark the beginning of a friendship that would last for almost 30 years. We became close friends, we worked together and he provided great support and advice.
Joe T worked and campaigned tirelessly for over 30 years to support and enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities. To many, Joe T was a mentor, a peer, a disability activist and a true friend. He was also a man with a real and unique positive vision for change and promoted real “hands on” action to help improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. Disability issues always remained high on Joe T’s agenda because he understood that we may need assistance at any time, day or night, and therefore he insisted on being available 24/7 to MDI’s membership (and beyond). He never switched off!
I first met Dermot on a personal development course run by the IWA which we both attended in 1985. Dermot was also a fellow founder of Centre for Independent Living (CIL) here in Ireland. He was a unique individual and was passionate about his fight to be treated in the same as everyone else and he embraced the Philosophy of Independent Living full on.
He worked for CIL from 1993 to 1998, and campaigned tirelessly for an Independent Living Fund. He was one of the first individuals to travel the route of successfully having his funding for his Personal Assistants (PAs) transferred to a service provider of his choosing, which would have been viewed as a progressive strep in helping to put the issue of direct payments for PAs on the political agenda. Dermot pursued lots of battles over the years to challenge inequalities and fought endlessly for equal treatment for all.
Although our paths may have crossed briefly on one or two occasions, Michael is the only individual of the seven people whom we are honouring and remembering here today that I sadly never got to know. This was obviously due to geographical reasons as we both lived on opposite sides of the country. But Michael was as passionate and dedicated to the struggle to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities, especially in rural Ireland. He was a founder of the Mayo Centre for Independent Living and focused all of his energies for over 20 years on lobbying Government agencies and stakeholders for more recognition for people with disabilities, particularly in rural Ireland, which too often is neglected and overlooked.
A video capturing the event can be viewed in the ILMI Video resources section here: www.ilmi.ie/ilmi-video-resources
Eugene Callan tribute from CIL
The past year has seen the loss of many great Irish Independent Living activists. Last week we once again united in grief at the loss of Eugene Callan, a truly great Leader within the Independent Living movement.
Eugene, who was originally from Monaghan, was a Dublin-based Leader whose work and dedication to the movement had implications for people with disabilities far beyond any geographical boundary. He served as CIL Chairperson for many years until 2008 when he retired from CIL to concentrate on his work in Cheshire and his activities with the IWA, Spinal Injuries Ireland and the wider movement. A true gentleman Eugene was the person we all went to for advice. He had a wealth of knowledge and a quiet wisdom that was both respected and admired by all he encountered. Over the years Eugene remained deeply rooted within the disability movement and in more recent years his work with the Leaders Alliance brought him firmly back to the activism and campaigning role we all relied on him for. He was the calming influence required to steer us through many unsteady times. We will miss his knowledge, wit, and caring nature forever. Our deepest sympathies are extended to his beloved Niamh, mother Kathleen, brothers, sister and extended family. Sleep well our friend x.
John Doyle tribute from the CIL
It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of our friend and comrade, John Doyle, who passed away on Sunday 26th November surrounded by his loving family at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, following a short illness. Those who knew John from the independent living movement will find it hard to believe that he is gone, but many wanted to pay tribute to a remarkable man who gave so much time, energy and expertise in the struggle for equality for people with disabilities.
We asked many members of CIL if they would share some of their thoughts on John as an activist and a person and some of those thoughts below attempt to capture a person with a larger than life personality with huge energy, commitment to collective action and a keen sense of humour.
Throughout the lifetime of CIL John featured sometimes at the forefront, but more often than not in the background. He worked very closely with Martin Naughton a friendship and bond that began in St. Mary’s Baldoyle, and we should all remember that he was the person who taught Martin Naughton English all those years ago in St. Mary’s.
He knew the power of working together and with John you were always clear what the message was: Equality and justice. John was never afraid to take on a challenge, and was someone who was completely committed to the philosophy and practice of Independent Living. John’s analysis, strategic thinking and keen mind always managed to capture the needs of the Movement. He was master of the one-line placard slogan and press release header.
Many, many people remember his ability to keep spirits up at all-night protests, whether about accessible transport or PA services, with flasks of tea in the middle of the night outside Heuston Station or his good humour taking the sting out of the cold weather and hunger that felt on such days.
His involvement included but was not limited to our political and lobbying campaigns regarding PAs, Housing, Transport, Irish and EU legislation in the early days and the expansion of CIL throughout the country particularly. CIL members were at one in considering how very fortunate and privileged they were to have known John.
John was a man with deep sense of what was right and wrong in our society. He was a motivator and a sociable man with a fantastic sense of humour who knew how to push buttons to stir debate, but also how to smooth things over. He had an enormous ability to not only talk the talk but to put it into writing too and was not afraid of taking a few risks. Recently with Martin’s demise John played a big role in bringing like-minded people together as part of the board to continue CIL’s work and that of the Independent Living Movement.
CIL members were at one in considering how very fortunate and privileged they were to have known John. He was a gentleman and a leader, who in his own unassuming and modest way empowered others to believe in themselves and supported them it getting their voice heard. His intelligence, wit and good humour always diffused even the most challenging situations. His willingness and ability to see the bigger picture and look beyond himself showed his real leadership skills. As one friend said: when I think of John, I am reminded of the quote by Henry Miller; “The real leader has no need to lead: he is content to point the way”.
Those that were lucky to know John will remember a life of passion with vigour and enthusiasm; and some of those were lucky enough to see probably the first wheelchair user doing Irish dancing (“how he twirled that chair without incident I will never know!”). John’s loyalty and comradeship is something that will be irreplaceable. Most of all people will treasure and remember a mischievous, highly intelligent, honest, loyal and loving friend and colleague. His commitment to social justice, equality and rights for all and his belief in collective strategic action will continue to instruct us all even though he is sadly no longer with us.
John Doyle is survived by his partner Jackie, his children Danielle, Leeann and Shane and his beloved thirteen grandchildren; his parents Mary and Tommy, his six sisters and by his extended family and many, many friends.