Monthly Archives: February 2018

Senator Daly questions progress on services for people who have disabilities

We do not accept the claims made in the Government’s motion and its record on provision for those with disabilities, but we are happy to support the measures the Government proposes to take, which are outlined in the latter half of the motion, along with Senator Dolan’s amendments. As we all know, people who have disabilities face discrimination in terms of housing, transport and many other areas. While proposals on guidelines are welcome, the introduction of legislation is far more important because guidelines are often ignored.

It is only when something affects this House that action happens. It was only when we had a Member of the Seanad, who was one of the first Members of these Houses to be in a wheelchair, that it became apparent how inaccessible the Houses of the Oireachtas were, but that was only because he was a Member of the Oireachtas. For decades prior to that members of the community who were disabled and used wheelchairs who tried to access their Parliament could not gain entry to it. They could not access their own Parliament. That was rectified because it affected a Member of this House.

It was only when a matter affected this Parliament that the rules were changed to address the issue of the inaccessibility to it experienced by members of the deaf community. Again, that was only because it affected the running of this House. When a debate took place on the issue of the deaf community and having sign language interpreters in the Dáil Chamber, it became a showdown between the Houses of the Oireachtas and the way they did their business and members of the deaf community who wanted to understand what was going on in their Parliament and could not do so because no interpreters were available. Again, that change happened only because of the interaction with this Parliament, but for decades prior to that people who had to access Government, private sector services and other services were faced with an immovable object. Guidelines will not move the Government to act, unfortunately, only legislation will do that.

While the plans and the strategies regarding street furniture are welcome and even if the laws that are in place were enforced in that respect, the fact is that people can get licences from Departments and local authorities to put in place impediments to members of the blind community who might be using wheelchairs to get around. The Government is trying to take money at one end of the spectrum and at the other end of it is seeking to enforce the law to protect people’s rights in terms of their ability to get around.

We would like consideration to be given to the various proposals that have come forward from the National Council for the Blind of Ireland and the Disability Federation of Ireland on the issue of its members navigating their way around and the necessity for change. Ms Elaine Hoey, the director of policy and advocacy for the NCBI said:

Our aim is to raise public awareness of the impact that obstacles on our footpaths have on the everyday lives of people [whose sight loss is a factor in their ability to move around]. We are asking the public to come along with us on this campaign and join the movement to ensure that people with sight loss can move around freely and independently.

We can only support that, but a campaign is only as good as the sustainability of the campaign. We have that with respect to so many other issues. Making people aware of the impact is fine on an individual issue by issue basis for the people who take it on board. However, it is only when a proposal becomes a law that has to be enforced that it will make a sustained, long-term difference. It should not be up to the NCBI or any other organisation to keep campaigning for people to be able to navigate their way around their own country.

Mr. Joe McPhillips who lost his sight at the age of 33 as a result of diabetic retinopathy said:

I know people mean well but they have to be aware that sometimes their actions can make life hell for people with sight loss. Parking on footpaths is a practice that has to be stamped out. People need to have consideration and realise that while they may be able to get around with no bother, those of us with sight loss are experiencing huge difficulties as a result of their actions.

No guidelines or policy are necessary, the law is there and it needs to be enforced. All the existing legislation must be examined and we must see the enforcement of it and how many convictions there are for parking on footpaths. The Garda has enough to be doing. The planning requirements for street bollards would prevent it rather than the Garda having to do it. Putting such a provision in guidelines is simply not good enough because their enforcement and being required to be part of a planning application is at the discretion of individual planners. Perhaps that is something that could be examined.

If Senator Dolan introduces legislation to improve accessibility we will all support it, but it is my belief that legislation must be enforced and I worry when people talk about having more guidelines. We would not be happy with that but we are happy to support the amendment Senator Dolan has tabled.

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1st permanent exhibition to Irish Tricolour to open this week at GPO – Daly

1st permanent exhibition to Irish Tricolour to open this week at GPO – Daly
– Commemorates 170th anniversary of 1st flying of flag by Thomas F Meagher –

The 1st ever permanent exhibition on the Irish Flag will be officially opened this Friday, 23rd February, at 2.30pm, by the Ceann Comhairle, Sean Ó Fearghail TD at the GPO Witness History Visitor Centre to commemorate the 170th anniversary of the first public flying of the Irish tricolour.
The exhibition has been installed by the Thomas F Meagher Foundation which seeks to promote pride and respect in the Irish flag and to better understand its importance in promoting peace and inclusion on the island.The Thomas F Meagher Foundation co-founders are Reverend Michael Cavanagh and Senator Mark Daly.
The centre piece of the new exhibition is an enormous polished black granite block with an exact typographical replica of the opening lines of the 1916 Proclamation where it states ‘summons her children to her flag’. This is then followed by the original quote of Meagher when he flew the flag for the first time in 1848 where he says:

“The white in the centre signified a lasting truce between orange and green. I trust that beneath its folds the hands of the Irish catholic and the Irish protestant may be clasped in generous and heroic brotherhood.

Incorporating the latest touch screen technology, the exhibition will have information on the history of the flag. Visitors can also send via email the Irish flag protocols to themselves and students can see the new educational tools on the story of the Irish Flag which the Thomas F Meagher Foundation have put in place in conjunction with the Department of Education and Skills.
Schools from around the country that intend to participate in the Thomas F Meagher Foundation Flag Day event on March 16th have also been invited to the dedication ceremony by the Ceann Comhairle.
Commenting ahead of the exhibition’s launch, Senator Daly said:
“Flag Day, on the eve of St Patrick’s Day, is where schools sell lapel pins given free to them by the Foundation for projects, causes or charities of their choosing.
“As a result of students work promoting pride in and respect for the Irish Flag and its meaning for peace, they can become eligible for the Kerry Group award and scholarship. If any schools would like to get involved, they should get in touch with the foundation at their website: www.tfmfoundation.ie,” concluded Daly.

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Senator Daly highlights the impact of a lack of rural broadband

The issue of rural broadband is not just about connectivity to the Internet, but about sustaining and maintaining jobs in rural Ireland. Broadband is to the economy today what canals were to the economy in the 1700s, railways were in the 1900s, rural electrification in the 1930s and 1940s and telephone connections with the wider world in the 1970s and 1980s. Now there is another delay in broadband provision. We are aware that this is somehow being spun as a victory for the Government, which is quite an amazing achievement. We hear that it is going to be cheaper, or it is going to be the same cost or it is going to be faster, but we all know these are not the facts. Statistics are pliable but the facts are very stubborn. The facts do not lie.

Ireland is ranked at No. 42 in the global index on broadband availability. High-speed broadband is only available to some 40% of the population. Why are we delaying so much and so badly? In fairness to the Government, one thing it has not been short on when it comes to this matter is announcements, targets and deadlines, all of which the Government has not met. The Minister looked very sheepish yesterday as he announced this, somehow or other, victory. He said that they were now going to be able to roll it out on time. As they have not met any other targets so far, for the Minister to spin this as a victory is quite unbelievable and audacious. The spin unit must be working overtime all the time to pretend.

It is a fact, and we all heard this on morning radio today, that people and business communities in rural Ireland are being affected by their inability to work due to the lack of broadband. There is no shortage of plans or announcements but there is no believable plan. The credibility of the Minister of the Department is an issue when one sees very credible companies withdrawing from the process. Most of this is to do with the process that was put in place by the Minister and the Department. The Minister has to take responsibility. I believe that he needs to give an explanation to the people. Coming into this House from across the way and telling us that he has a new deadline, on top of the other deadlines, is simply not good enough. How are the people in Roscommon, Kerry and Mayo supposed to maintain and sustain jobs when the Government’s plans and targets, upon which people are relying to deliver connectivity, are simply not being met?

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