Yesterday (March 1st), the Independent Living Movement were once again rocked as we received the devastating news that our friend Hubert McCormack had passed away suddenly on the 28th February. Hubert was one of the founders of the Independent Living Movement in Ireland and has been a huge presence in the campaign for equality for disabled people for over 30 years.
Born in Co. Longford, Ireland, Hubert experienced living in institutionalised care during his childhood – as was the norm for so many disabled children at the time. However, even from an early age Hubert challenged the institution and its practice of keeping disabled children from their families. “I was fighting all the time. ‘Can I go home for Christmas? What about Easter?’ I was 11 or 12 when I was allowed home for all holidays. Then, when I was 13 or so, I was given an electric wheelchair. It was amazing, just being able to move about like that.”
A pioneer of the Irish Independent Living Movement Hubert got involved in the campaign for Independent Living to achieve control over his life and the lives of other disabled people. He was one of the ‘original seven’ to spearhead the fight to move from residential “care” to environments where we disabled people could gain full and total control over our own lives. Hubert said that “the first issue we began to examine as a group, was housing and the lack of accessible accommodation. Very quickly we realised that suitable housing would be pointless to people with significant physical disabilities without the presence of a Personal Assistance Service, and this was one of the key factors which led us to establishing the INCARE programme, one of CIL’s first undertakings. The INCARE programme examined, implemented and secured the provision of a personal assistance service. In turn, this led to the launch of the Irish Center for Independent Living.”
A musician at heart in 1995, Hubert became involved with a CIL Writer’s Workshop, working with a number of singer / songwriters such as Christy Moore and Mark Dignam. Through these workshops, Hubert was inspired to develop his song writing ambitions, leading to him launching a CD of his songs “Look Deeper” in 2003. He was the centre of many parties and his voice was known to fill a room at CIL events, particularly with his rendition of Christy’s ‘The Voyage’.
With his friend Joe T, Hubert worked in Muscular Dystrophy Ireland from 1989 and remained an active member of many campaigns for equality for disabled people in Ireland over the last 30 years. He remained proud of the profound impact his work had on the lives of disabled people: “Being part of the CIL movement , its founding and the setting-up of the PA service and enabling people to have a choice and take control over their lives is what I consider to be one of my main achievements.”
Above all else, Hubert’s large circle of friends and comrades will remember someone who lived life to its fullest and was the embodiment of the philosophy of independent living. He was brilliant company, a storyteller, singer and loved song, music, travel and socialising. He was the one person in the Movement who could be counted on to remember the contributions of his friends with whom he built the Movement as a way to inspire younger disabled activists to pick up the baton and push further. He was the first to compose those tributes not only as a mark of respect for those with whom he shared so much but also by remembering them, keeping them alive and reminding us of what they fought for and achieved, because in truth to Hubert his Independent Living friends weren’t just his friends, they were his family.
Hubert’s words at the “By Us With Us” event in 2017 are a fitting way to remember another comrade who has left us too soon, but who lit up many of our lives with his friendship, wisdom and wit but also fundamentally changed the lives of generations of disabled people to come:
“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 disabled people 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 disabled people in this country and elsewhere, can live a life equal to that of or non-disabled counterparts”
Our thoughts are with his family, PAs, numerous friends and particularly his mother Rosie.
With a heavy heart Hubert, we send you on your final Voyage. May you rest in power.