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.
Just read a review in Sat’s Irish Times of a new book by Dearbhail McDonald on another aspect of how Ireland is/has been screwed over financially Whiter than White? and one thing really leapt out at me: Fiona Nagle claimed in a court case that she needed €4,000 per week for her day-to-day expenses. I can’t think how I missed this one before, but honestly, what planet is she living on???
And it appears that she’s still living – to quote a former Taoiseach – way beyond her means in the big house in Glenageary – lots of work still going on apparently! O”Brien sued by kitchen business.
Ok I am really NOT jealous of this woman’s life I would not want that kind of stress – I have plenty of my own thank you kindly – but how have we as a country, as a people, as a planet come to this situation where a proportion of our fellow human beings genuinely seem to think there is nothing wrong with having – or pretending to have – that kind of money? I do think it is obscene that Fiona Nagle feels she needs €4,000 per week to meet her day to day expenses when many other women in this country are struggling to make ends meet. And I don’t mean that they can’t afford ot get hair or nails etc etc done or buy yet another bloody handbag that costs hundreds of euro (and if anyone can explain THAT to me I’d like to hear it!). I mean that women all over Ireland are struggling to pay 3 months car tax to keep their cars legally on the road so that they can take children to school, they are struggling to provide all the various bits and pieces children need for school, and some are struggling to heat their homes adequately and are dreading this coming winter.
Ok, rant over.