At Ability Focus, we welcome the inclusion of disability in the newly restructured 'Department of Children, Disability, Equality & Integration'. This is a significant step, continuing the upward trend of rights recognition for people with disabilities in Ireland, starting in 2016 with a Minister for State with Responsibility for Disabilities.
There were undoubted concerns when Finian McGrath, the outgoing Minister of State, chose not to run in this year's elections, leading to worries that disability would not have as significant a brief within the new government. Inclusion of disability in this full department demonstrates a recognition by our new government that disability is not a health, but a human rights and equality issue. It also gives recognition of the efforts made by disability advocates over the many decades leading to this point.
While there are those who are cautious about the potential infantilisation of disability by coupling it with the Department of Children, we believe this move has to be welcomed as a wholly progressive step, giving Ireland's largest minority group full representation at the cabinet table. There are well over 650,000 people living with a disability in Ireland. By giving disability a seat at the cabinet table, greater awareness and understanding of this hugely diverse and underrepresented group should follow.
Since early March, many disabled people have been affected disproportionately during the worldwide pandemic; socially, economically, physically, and emotionally. Let's choose to see this as a positive step towards brighter days ahead.