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Tributes paid to 'fearless and brilliant campaigner' Donal Toolan

President Michael D Higgins said Toolan was “a deeply committed advocate for legislation on disability rights”.

File photo Donal Toolan, co-ordinator of the Forum of People with Disabilities and former member of the Council of State has died Donal Toolan Source: RollingNews.ie

TRIBUTES HAVE BEEN pouring in following the death of leading disability rights activist and journalist Donal Toolan.

President Michael D Higgins said Toolan was “a deeply committed advocate for legislation on disability rights”.

“As a journalist, actor and campaigner he made a contribution to Irish public life that was of immense value. He will be missed in particular by all of us who had the privilege of knowing him.

“Sabina and I express our condolences to his family, colleagues and wide circle of friends.”

Toolan was the founder and coordinator of the Forum of People with Disabilities and former member of the Council of State.

‘An enormous loss’

He also previously served as a board member of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL).

Speaking today, ICCL Executive Director Liam Herrick said: “Donal made an enormous contribution to defining the rights of people with disabilities as a question of fundamental human rights.

He was a fearless and brilliant campaigner who believed passionately that people with disabilities must lead the fight for dignity and justice for all those affected by disability in all its forms. Donal also was committed to a broad human rights agenda and stood in solidarity with all those seeking justice in Irish society.

“Perhaps most significant, in terms of Donal’s contribution to human rights in Ireland, was his commitment to shining a light on the human rights of those who lived in ‘closed spaces’, including disabled children and adults.

“Through his activism, his journalism and his artistic expression, Donal helped change the landscape for disability rights in Ireland in a profound and lasting way. His death is an enormous loss to the world of arts and broadcasting, but especially to the human rights and disability rights community in Ireland.”

File photo Donal Toolan, co-ordinator of the Forum of People with Disabilities and former member of the Council of State has died Pictured with Taoiseach Enda Kenny outside Leinster House Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Séamus Dooley, acting general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, also paid tribute to Toolan.

In 1993, Toolan was awarded National Broadcast Journalist of the Year and also received a Jacob’s award for his work on the documentary series In From the Margins.

“Donal was a passionate advocate for equality: fearless, wise and funny. He was a talented writer, actor and broadcaster. As presenter of the RTÉ Radio 1 programme Not So Different he championed the rights of people with disabilities. He did so with eloquence and courage.

“He was a true champion of inclusion with a stubborn commitment to human rights. Donal used all his talents – as an actor, a writer and social commentator, to champion his vision of equality not just in Ireland but internationally, through the UN Association of International Service and the European Anti-Poverty Network,” Dooley said.

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