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Sinn Féin to continue fight for rights-based disability law

26 May, 2005

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has sharply criticised the Government over its failure to respond positively to the broad range of opinion calling for the new disability legislation to be rights-based. Deputy Ó Snodaigh was speaking following the Dail vote on the Disability Bill 2004.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "The Government's failure to respond positively to the many voices both inside and outside the House that called for this legislation to be rights based rather than resourced based is another lost opportunity to define our society as one that is truly based on the principle of equality.

"It represents a slap in the face to all those people with disabilities, their families and advocates who were led on a two year merry-go-round of repeated consultations in the hope that this Government would finally live up to its responsibilities to acknowledge and deliver their rights.

"A decade after rights-based legislation was originally recommended our worst fears have now been confirmed. This Bill is not rights-based. It is resourced-based and thereby negates any hope that people with disabilities and their families can secure the services that should be theirs as of right.

"Significantly, the Bill also fails to impose a legal duty on every public service provider to include and promote equality of people with disabilities, and in this way it goes contrary to the Good Friday Agreement guarantees of equivalence in rights protections north and south.

"It is an absolute disgrace, and it is despicable that the Minister with ultimate responsibility for implementation of the legislation, Michael McDowell, didn't even bother to turn up take part in the debate.

"While the passage of this Bill represents an immediate set-back in achieving the objective of rights-based legislation for people with disabilities, Sinn Féin will continue to support the disability sector in their just demands to be treated with dignity and respect and above all on a basis of equality with all other citizens of this state." ENDS

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