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Campaigners rallied on O'Connell Street today Mairead Maguire via The Journal
disability rights

Politicians and activists rally against 'ableist' government proposals on disability allowance

Campaigners fear some disabled people could be forced to work when they cannot.

POLITICIANS AND ACTIVISTS held a rally in Dublin today calling for the government’s Green Paper on Disability Reform to be scrapped.

The proposal, which would create a tier system for Disability Allowance, was shot down as “ableist” by campaigners, about 70 of whom attended the demonstration on O’Connell Street this afternoon.

Senator Tom Clonan, a carer and long-time disability rights advocate, described the Green Paper as “Dickensian”, dividing people into “the deserving poor and the undeserving poor”.

Daniella Bella of Neuro Pride Ireland, an intersectional campaign group, said the proposed changes amount to “increased surveillance of our lives”.

The rally comes days after the country rejected an amendment to the constitution that would assert that caring is the responsibility of the family, while the State would only “strive” to support those who need care.

Political parties, all but one of which advocated for a Yes vote in both referendums, came under fire at the protest. People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett said the criticism was “perfectly understandable”, and that his party would engage more with disabled people on these issues in future.

Dr Margaret Kennedy, a 71-year-old lecturer and campaigner, said that it is a “shameful indictment on our health services that we struggle to live independent quality lives on equal terms”, flying in the face of the United Nations Contravention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The Green Paper, she says, is part of a “conservative agenda” that aims to restrict benefits.

It proposes recategorising people who are in receipt of the Disability Allowance.

  • Level 1 would align with the State Pension. This rate is currently € 265.30 per week.
  • Level 2 would be €242.65.
  • Level 3 would be aligned with the current standard payment rate for Disability Allowance, which is €220.

Secondary benefits, such as Free Travel, will still apply to all levels.

If implemented, the proposed approach would apply to new applicants only at first. Then others would be re-assessed and put on a level under a “no loss basis”, meaning they won’t lose any benefits by being recategorised in the initial review. Depending on the severity of one’s disability, they will then be reassessed regularly and their level may be changed depending on their condition.

Many disabled people have experienced trauma in healthcare settings, and some have said that medical reassessment would cause unnecessary stress.

The Green Paper also stipulates that people on Level 3 of the scale will have to take up “reasonable offers” of jobs and places in training and employment programmes. Activists today said the language was too vague and may lead to disabled people being forced to work when they simply can’t.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on disabilities Pauline Tully TD also spoke at today’s rally. She said that the tier system is concerning.

She also said that many disabled people want to work, but there are barriers within the workplace that stop them.

“Those barriers could be accessible transport, it could be accommodation close to their place of employment, it could be access to personal a assistant service,” she explained.

Tully added that there is a “lack of awareness” among employers about some disabilities.

The government has stressed that the Green Paper is a proposal document and no final decisions have been made. The public can email submissions to

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