Strategies for Change – More about how we might use legislation to bring about change for disabled people

Strategies for Change

Other things to know

Other things to know about when Activists get together to use the law to legislate for change for disabled people:

The Public Interest Law Alliance – PILA 

The Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA) is part of the Free Legal Advice Centres – FLAC) and is a public interest law network that strive for  engagement with both the legal community and civil society. It’s remit is in using the law to advance social change for everyone. (see – Guest Piece by Stephen O’Flynn of ICI on family reunification and disability paymentsi & Inclusion Ireland, LinkedIn and Mason Hayes & Curran).  PILA have created partnerships with some very big law firms that will:

  • Do Pro Bono work
  • May take cases for people 
  • Can help draft legislation. This means that a group of activists can get lawyers for free to support them to draft legislation and/or advice you on the wording regarding the legal terms that you need to use when trying to draft up a legal piece of legislation.

The Law Reform Commission 

The Commission is an independent body established under the Law Reform Commission Act (1975). The role of the Commission is to keep the law under review and conduct research with a view to reform the law if required. They are important because they might have done a report on your issue in the past or report on something related to your issue. Also, at the end of every report they have a draft law so as activists we can use this “as a starting point”. But be mindful that they do not have a huge amount of disability related work completed, but it is definitely worth checking them out because “our government is more likely to listen to the Law Reform Commission more so than other bodies may be in terms of what the law should look like” (see – https://www.lawreform.ie). 

Look to the UN system and international law. This is about finding out what the UN committee has said about your issue. If it is a disability rights issue there is UN committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and there is also the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR – Film on the European Court of Human Rights). 

The Special Rapporteur 

We have Gerard Quinn; he is Irish and is the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Disabled People and he might have made a statement about your issue (see – Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities). See what Gerard had to say about disabled women and girls in 2019 – Expert Group Meeting on the intersections between women’s rights and the rights of person with disabilities & access to justice for disabled people – International Principles and Guidelines on access to justice for persons with disabilities & Making sure people with disabilities get justice

There is also the World Health Organisation and the International Labour Organisation if it’s an employment issue (see – www.ilo.org). So, the advice here is to find out what “best international advice” there is and present it to government. 

Individual Solicitor Firms or sometimes universities has students that are supervised by researchers e.g. Dr. Eilinóir Flynn (see – www.nuigalway.ie – Eilionoir Flynn). Eilinoir also has other people on her team that might be able to do a piece of background research like looking at what laws have been introduced on related issues in other countries. 

The Disability Information Law Clinic (see – www.nuigalway.ie – Disability Law Policy & Easy Read – Clinic Policy.pdf) at NUIG could be another way to get help as activists. 

Statutory Instruments 

Statutory Instruments is a form of legislation which allows the provisions of an Act/Law made by government to be subsequently brought into force or altered without government having to pass a new Act/Law.

So, if there is an Act/Law that has already been passed by government and it says how for example the Social Welfare System, or the Education System “should work” the Minister has the power to make changes. It is important to note here that a Minister cannot introduce new things and it cannot change what the original Act/Law says but they can tweak things a little bit so a statutory instrument can be used to change a part of guidance or a code of practice or explain the interpretation of a law in a different way (see – Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) (Amendment) (No. 10) (Income Disregard) Regulations 2021 (see – Disability Allowance after Learning of PhD Student’s Case & Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 – www.irishstatutebook.ie for two good examples of how Statutory Instruments were used to effect change. 

Using Our Lived Experience as a Tool to Strategise for Change

Advice from Eilinóir – We need to be very mindful of having to tell so much of our personal stories to get basic things for example, housing or person centred human support. 

We should never underestimate the aftermaths for individuals”. 

The public love these stories, so do media and government. But we must be careful in terms of what we are asking of people.

We must be very careful when we are working on campaigns that we, “as much as possible” try to prepare people if they do want to share their stories to support the campaign. 

We need to ask ourselves “what support is going to be there for people afterwards to deal with the fallout”. And sadly, that’s not something that campaigns have done very well in the past. We really need to think about this reality if we want to change things. What are we prepared to give up in order to achieve what we want and how are we going to “mind people because we have a responsibility collectively – we cannot be throwing people into these situations without being there for them afterwards”.