DISABILITY campaigners in Louth have been urged to become a ‘ thorn in the side’ of decision makers - after one person revealed he left a meeting with Louth County Council in tears.
John Morgan said that he met a council official in a bid to improve the lives of wheelchair users.
‘I’m 53 years old and came out crying’, he told a shocked conference on disability at the Westcourt Hotel on Saturday.
He said he got better luck with another council official Frank Pentony who went on a walkabout with him in Dundalk and ‘ got some problems’ fixed.
Community campaigner James O’Neill said that no-one should leave a meeting with the likes of a council official in such a manner.
‘ These people should be accountable. The law of the land belongs to the people and they should be gone’, he stated.
A series of other issues were raised, not least the ongoing storm in relation to people parking on footpaths in both Drogheda and Dundalk.
One local woman said that she had to go onto the road with her wheelchair as cars parked on the footpath. As a result, other motorists flashed their lights and beeped at her. It is a similiar problem for people with buggies and walking sticks.
A huge issue for many are buses with no ramps - even though 24 hours notice is given - and allocated space on trains. All too often wheelchair areas are full of baggage or buggies. ‘You are left there like a lost soul’, one train user remarked.
John Morgan said in Dundalk you can’t get a wheelchair accessible taxi ‘ 99% of the time’ after 6pm.
Proper plans in relation to Drogheda’s hosting of the Fleadh in 2018 need to be agreed in terms of disability access and participation.
‘Plans need to include all of the issues people are bringing up and they must be addressed’, Mayor Smith remarked.
Drogheda architect Florence Shields also said that young people especially needed to be educated in relation to disabilities and maybe that would rub off on their parents.
Senator John Dolan paid tribute to the only surviving founder member of the Irish Wheelchair Association Oliver Murphy, saying there was no difference between the IWA foundation and the meeting in the Westcourt.
‘ The first thing to do is make the case in your local community’, he stated. ‘We need to keep the political interest stoked up.’
He said he had been at the Cavan Fleadh and people with disabilities were volunteers and performers and that was important for Drogheda next year.
He said the area was full of history and that means tourism but Drogheda should remember that mainly older people were tourists and they had to be cateted for. ‘ There is a business case here’, he remarked.
He said he could sense ‘palpable anger and frustration’ amongst the various Louth groups and they needed to turn that into actions.
‘Get stuck into Louth, Dundalk, Drogheda and the other towns and villages. You have to lead this yourselves’, he urged the large attendance.
Oliver Murphy said people with disabilities did not want to be special - they just wanted a ‘county Louth that I can go anywhere in.
There has been one hell of an improvement since the IWA was founded and keep it going. Work together, don’t give up,’ he urged.
Mayor Pio Smith facilitated the meeting and said that it centred on issues with education, amenities and work and that all the aspects would be put together and presented at a further meeting early next year.
A ‘Make Way Day’ takes place each year in Dublin to highlight disabilities and it is proposed to hold one in Drogheda next year.
‘I intend to meet Chief Executive Joan Martin and agree a day to do this’, the mayor remarked. It is likely to be a countywide initiative.
Mayor Smith said he learned a lot from the day and he had great faith in the people he worked within the council that matters could be progressed.
There are a number of problem parking areas in Drogheda, not least outside the Lourdes Hospital where wheelchair users can be denied using the bus stop due to cars parked on the path.