Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Dear Nervous Nellies

January 21st, 2015 · Homophobia, Irish Politics, Marriage Equality, Queer, Same Sex Partnerships, Uncategorized

Yes you … stop looking over your shoulder… you who watched Claire Byrne Live and began to panic about the Marriage Referendum and started worrying about what was going on, who was doing what and the sky was going to fall in and and and…

1) Chill the feck out.

2) There are 4 months to go to the day of the vote which is yet to be announced.  This is a marathon and not a sprint. There is a piece of legislation to go through the Oireachtas on Children and Families and relationships which will mean that the referendum will be about marriage as it should be.

3) Yes campaigners are not going to win this referendum on their own – there are not enough LGBT’s able to vote. People who believe in equality are, by voting in favour of it, going to win this referendum because you have asked them to do so and because they think it is the right thing to do. These are your grannies, your neighbours, your workmates and generally sound people you don’t know (yet) who believe in fairness and equality.

4) Because this is a marathon and not a sprint there are groups strategising and getting ready for the campaign with different campaign events, plans and posters and the like. Some of them need your money and others want your time. Think about helping them out. They won’t tell you what the plan is 4 months from the vote, but there is a plan. Trust them.

5) This is a democracy. People are going to oppose this referendum. They are in the minority but they have the right to express their opinions and try and get people to vote No or not vote at all. Don’t spend too much time focusing on them, don’t vilify them. Implacable courtesy all the way or ignore them. Mind your mental health, look out for others who might find the negativity and homophobia depressing and difficult to deal with. Mind each other.

6) There are other things you can do to ensure people vote Yes in May.

- Ask people you know to vote and tell them why it’s important to you.
– Make sure you are registered to vote yourself. Check the register - if you are not on the 2015 version you can go on the supplemental register.
– Read information on campaign groups websites (people can leave comments on this post with info on local and regional groups) Join mailing lists – Sign up as a volunteer, go to the training, if you (or you mother, granny or doting great uncle) are prepared to speak to the media tell these groups also.

- There are Facebook groups for constituency campaigns being set up at the moment. Closer to the date find out if there is door to door campaigning in your area from political parties or other campaign groups. Or on street leafleting in the month before the vote etc.
– Bring information into your workplace or college or sports club etc. See if a hustings can be organised where someone might be invited to speak on the issue.
– Call into radio debates and give your opinions (if only to make sure that Brendan Conroy – Breda O’Brien’s husband – is not the only person texting in!) Again be polite and to the point and explain your side of the story.

I write all the above as someone who was involved in the decriminalisation campaign which was not a referendum but was as important and often threatening and could make you ill with the stress and the mudslinging. It was not a sprint but a carefully planned marathon. A marathon where non lgbt people did the running along side lesbians and gay men and helped with the lifting. We have to ask our straight allies to run this marathon with us again.

I also write this as someone who isn’t particularly into marrying (though there are friends and family members looking for their day out) and I don’t see marriage as the most important issue for lgbts and find much of the narrative extremely conservative and restrictive and that’s on the Yes side.

But I will support the choice of people to marry. And I’ll come back to all later for discussions on why it’s ok not to marry, why single lesbian mothers rock and gay men who are serial monogamists or otherwise are to be treasured.  And why we still will need to keep Civil Partnership.

So chill the feck out, put on your safety belts and plan for a bumpy but important ride.


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What do you call a Former Taoiseach?

October 10th, 2014 · Uncategorized

Regarding that matter of His Excellency and how one might refer to a former Taoiseach.

I asked the Government Press Office

Former Taoisigh don’t have titles and are not referred to as “your excellency”.  On printed matter and by way of introduction they are referred to as Former Taoiseach.

Grand so we are now clear on the matter.  Over to you Bertie.  Sorry I mean Former Taoiseach.


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His Excellency on Water and other issues

October 10th, 2014 · Irish Politics

Later this month in Cardiff a group calling itself the Interaction Council will launch a book of papers by former world leaders offering  ‘authoritative insights into topics from the Middle East and denuclearization of Korea to the water crisis and the future of energy.’

The InterAction Council (IAC) is a 30 year old association pooling the expertise of world leaders and speaking out on issues of vital importance to the world community and the community of world leaders alike.

The launch will be moderated by the ‘Rt. Hon. the Baroness Margaret Jay of Paddington, former leader, UK House of Lords and joined by H.E. Mr. Bertie Ahern, former Prime Minister of Ireland.’

Yes H.E.

Wonder what his chapter is about.  Wouldn’t be Water would it?  Probably achieving peace in Northern Ireland though as it’s one of those subjects he used to get up to $40k a time speaking about when he was on that Speakers Bureau before he didn’t speak for them anymore. Otherwise known as before the Mahon report.

If you would like to refresh your memory on Bertie Earners… click away.


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Taking the hit and being clobbered

October 14th, 2013 · Disability, Equality, Social Policy

Claire is a woman I met socially a few months ago.  She has had a significant physical disability since birth and following leaving school undertook a period of study in a further education college.  She lives in local authority housing having moved there some years ago despite the concerns of her family.  She was desperate for her own space and when in college over 10 years ago she thought maybe she could get some part time work in the public sector under the 3% recruitment quota for people with disabilities.  However there is an embargo on public sector recruitment for the past 6 years including the recruitment of people with disabilities.

Claire and I began talking about the impact of austerity and budgets on the lives of people with disabilities and I soon realised she had begun to keep a list in her head of all the ways she had been affected.  I asked her to write a post for the blog or another publication if she wanted but she said she would prefer if I wrote out the list as she talked and added explanations to it.

Claire would not be able to work full time due to her disability and is limited in the tasks she can undertake due to literacy and communication difficulties.  She did try supported employment and job coaching but a job in the private sector could not be found despite many attempts – Claire said she just couldn’t keep up or could not find a job that she was able for and that an employer would be willing to make allowances for her.  Claire did take part in a CE scheme but the costs of getting to and from work which were covered by keeping her Disability Allowance payment would now prevent her doing such work again as that payment has been removed for those on CE schemes.

Claire also mentioned the loss of a medical card if she ever did get a job – it’s a worry as a medical card covers more than medicines for people with disabilities and doctors fees.  Claire needs help from Public Health Nurses for dressings sometimes, she also needs Occupational Therapy services and new aids and appliances including wheelchairs – both of these services are only available to medical card holders.

She has a few Personal Assistance hours each week and some daily home help hours.  However there are days where she does not get a freshly cooked meal because there is not enough time and she might trade the time taken in cooking if instead she needs help getting to a clinic appointment or needs bills paid. So she reheats leftovers or goes out for a meal if she can afford transport.  She says that eating out alone is a change of scenery never mind a break from the same food cooked again and again. She has three showers a week but not if there is a bank holiday in the week.  Most nights she says she goes to bed earlier than she would want to because that is when her assistance is available to her and it is warmer there.

Claire can’t use public transport without assistance.  So if she does not have someone to help her get on and off a bus safely she uses a taxi.  She has a mobility allowance which was removed by the government earlier this year but then reintroduced pending the introduction of a new scheme.  She wonders if she will still qualify for the new scheme.

Claire listed the cuts she has experienced under this government.

  • A 25% cut in home help hours.  Refusal to transfer home help hours into Personal Assistance hours which would have meant the PA’s could have helped her go out into her community. (Home helps can only assist with personal care within the home, sometimes the person who helps Claire cannot cook or does not know how to cook – Claire buys food which is more expensive to cover those times to ensure that she will eat. She also mentioned this being more of an issue when her home help hours were cut and getting up out of bed, washed and laundry done competed with time spent preparing food.) Claire’s home helps are called carers – Claire doesn’t like the word much. She would prefer assistants as she thinks having a carer means she should be grateful for it and just let herself be cared for and have no say in things.
  • A cut to Electricity and Telephone allowances (Claire has to have a landline for her emergency response unit – a pendant operated call system if she needs help – her line rental is no longer free.)  Her electricity Bill is up due to the cuts in allowances and also the big increases levied by the power company in recent years.
  • A cut to the number of fuel allowance payments each year from 32 to 26 weeks.  Claire noted that she feels the cold more due to her health and also the fact that she is at home more that people who are able to work she has additional costs.
  • A €1.50 per month charge for her 5 prescription items received on the medical card.  Cost to Claire – €7.50 per month.
  • The removal of 3 items from the medical card scheme which means she has to pay for them over the counter – cost to Claire €19 per month.
  • Claire’s disability allowance has been cut in 2008/9.  Meanwhile everything has increased including VAT on many items she purchases.  Claire also mentioned the extra costs she faces in laundry, cleaning and other purchases which make life more accessible for her. She also has to provide items to homehelps and PA’s to protect them in their work. These are not covered by their employers (latex gloves/aprons etc.) and the HSE have cut the amount that they provide.  Claire says she can’t stand it when this government says that the primary payments have not been affected – everything else costs so much now.
  • Claire’s rent has increased – waste and property tax charges have been levied on her.  There is no waiver scheme for waste charges.
  • Claire needed adaptations done to her bathroom but the local authority refused to fund them last year despite reports indicating that they needed to be done.  She has been told she might get the work done this year.  Also her front door opener stopped working and a replacement order took months to be approved – this restricted Claire’s freedom of movement and happened at the same time her home help hours were cut.
  • Claire’s wheelchair has broken a number of times in the last 18 months. She has had her chair for nearly 5 years and hopes an application will be made for a new chair.  However there have been huge cuts to the aids and appliances budgets in the HSE.  The manual chair (which Claire got without asking for it – as a health and safety measure) is no use to Claire as she cannot propel herself in it.
  • Claire also mentioned the constant reapplying and reviewing for everything.  Her Disability Allowance reviewed, her medical card, each time something new is needed or needs fixing.  New reports are needed, new letters from her doctor, forms need filling.  Her disability is life long and permanent but the ‘systems’ don’t seem to understand this.
  • Finally Claire and I have had a few conversations about mental health and the effect of all of this and the increasing isolation on her sense of worth and wellbeing.  She notes that family members have pointed to the cuts as an excuse to say she should not be living alone or independently.  When a big bill comes in she does not feel she can ask her siblings for help to pay it or to buy something she really needs now instead of waiting for it.  Also she says she feels when going out and about she is less a part of society, not just that she goes out less often, but when she does that people don’t talk to her or ignore her more than they did before.

So when Minister Noonan, Burton, Howlin et al say yet again that ‘we all have to take the hit’ in the coming days as they explain away the budget , Claire and many other people with disabilities will again be reflected on being clobbered (Claire’s words) again and again and again and how it appears that the government says that the fiscal violence is deserved.

*Claire asked for her name to be changed and picked this name for herself after we had finished making the list.


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Disabling healthcare

October 14th, 2013 · Disability, Social Policy

The circumstances surrounding the deaths of Grainne Daly and Bernard Wright were reported last week and should be remembered for years to come. Unfortunately I fear that they may soon be forgotten.

Both had disabilities and both had families who fought hard to get clarity regarding their treatment and cause of death.

Grainne’s family had been fighting for 4 years before they finally received an apology from the HSE.  Eoin English reported extensively in the Irish Examiner on Saturday on the circumstances surrounding her death and the silence from the HSE afterwards.

Bernard Wright died in 2011 in the care of St. Michaels House, his family had moved him back there from Beaumont Hospital following a refusal to administer morphine. His family thanked St. Michaels House for their care and allowing Bernard to die with dignity.

While the culture of non-disclosure and a refusal to communicate with family members during an illness and following death was the main focus of the reports last week there was another issue which lay below the surface.

There is no national protocol regarding the treatment, communication and support of people with disabilities who are receiving treatment in acute hospital settings.  Several hospitals have individual policies, however the HSE or HIQA have no national standards on the needs and treatment of this specific group when they are seriously ill. Frequently health care providers are more concerned by consent and decision making (Capacity legislation dates back to the 19th century) rather than the basics of caring and listening to patients and those who know them and planning care and consultation. Many who are concerned with this issue believe that often the best treatment is not provided to people with disabilities because they can’t speak up or are seen as less important than other patients.

Service providers (funded by the State) who support people with disabilities in residential settings also vary in the type of communication and practical supports offered to the people they care for when they go to an acute hospital. Making sure that information is passed between providers and hospitals does not always happen. Sometimes staff will remain with people with disabilities throughout their hospital stay because of the deficiencies in acute hospital care in ensuring people are heard and cared for appropriately. I have heard that some hospitals demand that this happen due to lack of resources. But often agencies do not have enough staff to ensure someone is at the hospital with the person who has a disability during their inpatient stay.

Family members may not be able to attend either and may not be able to speak up or be heard in questioning the treatment (or lack of it) being offered.  Many organisations are developing palliative care services and policies due to deficits in mainstream services.

Talking to people with disabilities about their hospital and healthcare experiences over the past 20 years I have been struck about reports of poor care, a lack of information on conditions being given to patients, being patronised by healthcare staff, the lack of knowledge of staff of many disabilities and too many assumptions being made, low levels of support with eating and hydration whilst in hospital. For those who are able to speak up they often find themselves ignored and information given to carers and families without people’s consent.  All report that it is an extremely stressful time and frequently that is due to the issues other than the illness being treated.

We need a national focus and response on the way in which people with disabilities are supported when they are patients in acute hospitals, the care they receive from staff in those hospitals – ensuring people are trained to deliver care and not rely on families or disability organisations to provide care. And we need to talk about supporting people to have the right to both live and die with dignity.

In the UK last year MENCAP published the results of a confidential inquiry into the deaths of people with disabilities.  The inquiry showed that over 1200 people with disabilities die in acute hospitals each year because they are not getting the right care.

People with disabilities, their families and those who support them should feel safe when they are in hospital and know that they receive the best standard of care. We all should feel like that.


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