Advocacy and people with disabilities

Sir, – Budget 2019 saw an increase in disability spending to an eye-catching €1.9 billion. Welcoming the increase and the subsequent HSE Service Plan, Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath said that he was “acutely aware of the daily challenges facing many people with disabilities and their families” and that he would “ensure their voices are heard and inform the planning and improvement of services”.

These statements do not tally with what has transpired as a number of organisations which represent those voices have since had their budgets savagely cut.

Inclusion Ireland, which represents the 66,000 people with an intellectual disability, is facing a 40 per cent reduction in its budget from July 1st, with no guarantee of funding levels for 2020 and beyond. This represents a severe threat to the future of the organisation and puts at risk almost 60 years of information, support and advocacy work.

The cut is unprecedented, even during austerity times, when our organisation, like many others, took its share of the pain. No reduction has ever been this severe and could easily lead one to conclude that the work of Inclusion Ireland and other representative organisations is considered a low priority by State agencies.


The work that Inclusion Ireland and others do is essential in advocating for changes to the historical marginalisation of people with a disability. People with intellectual disabilities are among the most disenfranchised people in Ireland. Only 17 per cent of people with intellectual disability have a job, fewer than one in four reports being in good health and 40 per cent of people with a disability live in poverty.

Inclusion Ireland doesn’t just advocate for people with intellectual disabilities, we ensure that individuals represent themselves. Without the meaningful participation of people in decisions that affect their lives, there is no prospect of addressing these stark inequalities, and marginalisation, exclusion and abuse will continue unabated.

Having the voices of people with intellectual disabilities and their families at the table when decisions are made about their lives ensures that we move away from old ways of doing things. We all watched in horror when RTÉ uncovered the abuses at Áras Attracta, and in the wake of those horrifying scenes, Inclusion Ireland ensured that the voices of the most marginalised people were heard and listened to in Áras Attracta and beyond.

Advocacy matters and without advocacy, without de-institutionalisation, without inclusion, the reality is continued inequality for people with intellectual disabilities, and many more abuse scandals to come. – Yours, etc,



Interim Chief

Executive Officer,

Inclusion Ireland,

Unit C2,

The Steelworks,

Foley Street,

Dublin 1.