While I was on holidays a work colleague texted me to say she had been canvassed by Cóir. The canvasser told her that if Lisbon was passed that she would be put down like a dog. My colleague has cerebral palsy. She didn’t argue back and managed to move away. I was shocked but not really surprised that the campaign had taken this course. People with disabilities have been targeted by Cóir and Youth Defence campaigners before in abortion campaigns telling us our right to life would be affected if Abortion was permitted but not able (not wanting) to talk about our lives and the rights we need to live them.
Living in Dublin City Centre it’s not difficult to find Cóir on the ground so I knew I would be able to try to explore it further – whether I got any answers would be another thing!.
So at the GPO yesterday it was not difficult to get a word with Brian T. Hickey a principle spokesman from Cóir. He said that the canvasser should not have said tha tabout being put down but that it was possible that Euthanasia would be introduced because 2 EU countries have it and the European Court could rule that Ireland should have it too. He scrambled a bit as he introduced what I call the Cóir question mark – it might happen because Cóir say it might even if everyone else says it won’t. Further questioned Hickey could not speak to the specific parts of the Lisbon Treaty that protect people with disabilities. I was then approached by another Cóir campaigner who overheard me to say that I was lucky to be alive because the HSE were bringing doctors over to train doctors and nurses here in Euthanasia. As another Cóir campaigner tried to put a sticker on my mobility scooter I backed away and revved up and took off as fast as I could.
On the basis of this and earlier rubbish about how the Treaty will lock up people with mental health conditions or intellectual disabilities I think we can say that ‘Sarah Palin Death panel‘ politics have arrived in Ireland. Now I can hear my regular commenter Steve White and others saying already to stop criticising Cóir and talk about the treaty – so I will. I don’t believe the EU is going to be killing off disabled people anytime soon.
Upon closer examination the Lisbon Treaty is very positive from a disability perspective. Specific references are made in the first article to respect of human dignity, human rights and equality and non-discrimination. Consultation with disabled people becomes enshrined in all processes – participatory democracy means that civil society and representative organisations will be consulted in all aspects of EU action. (Aside – It therefore is very important for organisations of disabled people to ensure that they are consulted rather than solely the organisations for people with disabilities and organisations which exist to provide services for people with disabilities.)
Mainstreaming of all areas of EU policy (Article 10) will include examination of the effects on people with disabilities. (This exists for gender mainstreaming for some years already.)
In 2007 people with disabilities campaigned to sign 1 million signatures to call for the EU to broaden it’s anti-discrimination legislation and policy remit to specifically name people with disabilities. This campaign has influenced the development of the Citizens Initiative which means that other issues can be campaigned for by citizens (One million signatories) and can lead to the Commission bringing forward legislation if within the scope of the EU.
In the Charter for Fundamental Rights (the one that Cóir fear so much and some on the Yes and No sides say means not a lot and others say it means so much) we see Article 26 – Integration of persons with disabilities
The Union recognises and respects the right of persons with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community.
So there we are empowerment, independence, with an added dose of ‘nothing about us without us’. Why are Cóir so afraid it? Or Article 25 which protects older peoples rights to participate in society? The reality is that Cóir and other anti treaty groups don’t want protection of the rights of anyone by the European Union and it’s institutions.
I’d be ecstatic if there really was a debate about people with disabilities and the way we are protected or not in Irish society and in the European Union. Instead we continue to be patronised and manipulated and ignored. There is no disability movement to debate or lead calls for change and political parties use the language of oppression and care and cost to control our lives.
The arrival of the politics of the death panel to use disability and fear of being killed because of Lisbon is therefore unsurprising in the void that has been created in denying people with disabilities respect, autonomy and dignity. Something that Cóir would like to wish to continue because fundamentally they are against the rights of the individual in any sphere.