Junior Ministerial Portfolios appointments should not relegate disability from Cabinet Discussions

Press Release from the Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI)

Targeted approaches to inclusion of disabled people across Departments welcomed, but disabled people’s voices must be heard at highest levels 

Today (Thursday 2nd July) ILMI welcomed the appointments of three Junior Ministers with portfolios with responsibilities for the inclusion of Disabled people in Irish society, but cautioned that the junior ministerial positions should not distract from the role of the Department of Children, Disability, Equality and Integration to ensure the inclusion of disabled people is a priority at a cabinet meetings. 

Welcoming the appointments of Minister of State for Disabilities in the Department of Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Anne Rabbitte TD, Minister of State for Older People and Mental Health Mary Butler TD and Minister of State Dept of Education, Josepha Madigan TD, ILMI Chair Des Kenny said: 

“Real inclusion of disabled people in Irish society is not limited to the remit of one Government department. It requires policies to be implemented across all Government departments. Having three new Junior Ministerial portfolios is welcome, as long as this does not mean that disabled people’s voices and concerns are solely to be dealt with outside of cabinet meetings. We welcome the opportunity to work with the new Junior Ministers, but will still expect to work with all Ministers, regardless of their brief”. 

“If we are serious about the inclusion of disabled people, we need to think about the language we use. We need to recognise the impact of language to reinforce outdated models that look at disabled people through a medical model which leave us as human beings as an afterthought in discussions about our own lives. On that basis ILMI calls for the removal of references to “special education” or “special education needs”. This term is very much based on a paternalistic medical / charity view of disabled people and is not based on the social model or principles of the UNCRPD. The needs of disabled people, whether in education or otherwise, are not special. ILMI calls for the adoption of the term “inclusive education”, which is what we need to be constantly striving for”, said Des Kenny, ILMI chairperson. 

“Similarly, we need to have a conversation about the use of the term “mental health” in Ireland. People who experience anxiety, depression and emotional trauma are not sick and do not suffer from an illness. Taking a social model of disability we need to recognize that using terms like “mental health” medicalises and individualises people’s emotional responses to societal pressures. Emotional trauma and distress is not an individual medical issue but a social issue and it cannot be “treated” as a medical condition” added Mr Kenny. 

“The new Junior Ministers must affirm the vital role of disabled people’s voices through Disabled Person’s Organisations (DPO) in order that they hear these issues so that their functions can really promote inclusion and not have a situation where language used unintentionally excludes disabled people from society”.