I’m watching the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games at the moment – its been a brilliant 11 days of excitement, passion and emotion. I have watched people with disabilities perform feats that I am not able to do. As a mum of an amazing daughter with disabilities I have found it immensely inspiring and very moving. Here in Ireland the country has been shouting on our Paralympians – Jason Smyth’s phenomenal sprinting, Bethany Firth winning Ireland’s first gold, Mark Rohan’s double gold and who will ever forget Michael McKillop’s face when he realised his mother was about to present him with one of his gold medals. The country is proclaiming them and all of our other Paralympians – Catherine Walsh, Darragh McDonald, John Twomey, Orla Barry, Séan Baldwin to name just a few – to be heroes. They arrive back in Dublin airport tomorrow evening and I am sure they will get one hell of a welcome.
But we have had other heroes with disabilities to celebrate this week. Martin Naughton, Anne and Margaret Kennedy, Leigh Gath, Joe T Mooney, John Roche, Eileen Daly…… these people and others (I’m sorry I don’t know their names) campaigned outside Leinster House this week – some of them overnight and all of them with disabilities – to protest against planned cuts to personal assistant hours. And you know what? The decision was reversed. I guess having people in wheelchairs, who have problems in speaking, who are not in the best of health sitting outside our national parliament in a very dignified protest was more than our politicians could stomach….. might cost them a few votes next time round after all. But the money this cut would have saved is likely to be drawn from other areas of the disability budget. And who knows how many people and families that will hurt.
So when you – rightly – comment on how great our Paralympians are (and they are) or if you are planning to be at the airport tomorrow to welcome those heroes home, just take a minute to remember that there are other heroes in the disabled community too. And we as a country should be equally proud of them and inspired by them. And we should be bloody ashamed and angry that our Government is going to make their lives harder with measures yet to be announced.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.