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Joanne O’Riordan: 'I will not allow this government treat me like a second class citizen'

More than 100 disability groups gathered outside the gates of Leinster House today to demand the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

We are not a special class. We are the same class. We are human beings.

LEADING DISABILITY RIGHTS activist Joanne O’Riordan marked the tenth anniversary since Ireland promised and failed to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities by giving an impassioned speech outside the Dáil.

Speaking to a huge crowd made up of 100 disability groups outside the gates of Leinster House, O’Riordan said she refused to be pushed to the background and ignored.

She called on the government, name-checking Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister of State for Disabilities Finian McGrath, to ratify the convention immediately.

Ireland is the last country in the European Union to ratify the agreement, despite already signing up to it.

Disability rights 

O’Riordan first shot to fame when she confronted Enda Kenny on disability cuts forcing the government into a U-turn back in 2012.

She was then asked to give the keynote speech at the UN’s International Telecommunication Union in New York.

“We will not be a passive observer within a society that is built on inequality,” O’Riordan told the crowds today.

I will not allow this government or any other people to treat me like a second class citizen.
I have hopes, I have dreams and I have aspirations just like every single one of you here today.
Regardless of my ability I want to know that I too one day will take my rightful place in Irish society.
I want to be a contributor and I want to be treated like a full equal member of my community. As a young disabled woman living in Irish society I believe I am worthy of that respect.

Cheers from the crowd followed, with people chanting: “Ratify, ratify, now, now, now.”

These chants were followed by the shouting of the words: “Enda Kenny. Out, out, out.”

O’Riordan was not the only speaker at today’s protest.

Other speakers included Joan Carthy from the Irish Wheelchair Association, who said it is time that those with disabilities are valued as Irish citizens.

Rehab’s James Rickard told the crowd that this is no time for “platitudes” from the government, but a time for action.

O’Riordan is meeting with Minister McGrath this afternoon to discuss a timeline for when the convention will be ratified.

The Independent Alliance TD committed to sign the agreement before Christmas, however, it’s understood legalities delayed its progression.

Disability Rights Protest. Disability Rights Activist - Joanne O'Riordan joined people from all over Ireland come togethr to support and protest for the rights of Disabled people in Ireland, outside Leinster House in Dublin this morning. Source: Sam Boal

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, the minister said he intends to ratify the convention “at the earliest possible date”.

A number of politicians joined the protesters on Kildare Street today, however, McGrath criticised those who he said were in power over the last ten years and did nothing.

He said the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is now in Committee Stage, which McGrath said will deal with the remaining barriers.

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