Campaigning and pressure delivers: Tory-style Green Paper on disability “reform” scrapped

By Stephen Morrison 

Another massive win for disability activists came on 12 April 2024, when Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys announced that the Government would no longer implement the Tory-style Green Paper on disability reform. This is the second big win for disability activists recently after people living with disabilities and carers across Ireland rebelled against the wording of the Care Referendum, inspiring the many others to vote No. In doing so, they handed the capitalist establishment a major defeat. 

First and foremost, this victory is a testament to these activists’ inspiring, grassroots campaigning. It’s clear that Harris and his weakened government were forced to back down when faced with mounting pressure.  

Why was it so important to reject this proposal? Firstly, the people it was supposed to help were not consulted, which goes against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Also, this system was already tried in the UK, with catastrophic consequences that left so many in a bureaucratic limbo and caused misery and despair to thousands, and in some cases, resulted in death. It also inspired Ken Loach’s heart-wrenching film I Daniel Blake, telling the story of one man’s struggle to access a disability payment. This system would have further marginalised and discriminated against people living with disabilities in Ireland.

Why was this scrapped?

After being elated at the news of it being scrapped, my initial euphoria has now worn off, and scepticism has crept in. It all seemed too easy a win, and I can’t help but wonder why the Government decided to give in on this proposal. I feel the answer is likely because it won’t cost anything; the Green Paper was only in its infancy and would not be fully implemented for another five years. Very little time, effort, and resources have gone into it. It is much easier to scrap the Green Paper now than reform the PA hours, provide better accessible transport, provide better education support and therapy, etc. Doing these things would take actual effort from the Government and would cost the Government manpower, time and money. This was an easy way to try to show they were listening.

I’m also in no doubt that the mounting pressure from Mick Barry TD and the Socialist Party’s private members motion due in the Dail on 17 April also put the Government into retreat. This motion has come about from Mick Barry and Ruth Coppinger’s discussions with people living with disabilities and carers during the lead-up to the Care Referendum and in the time since, and many disability activists co-wrote it – people with lived experience who have seen firsthand the system’s failures. This motion droves fear into the heart of the establishment because they can no longer try to control the narrative; they can feel the tide turning. As people with disabilities and carers mobilise and unite, they bring the rest of society with them, screaming ‘nothing about us, without us’.

Keep up the pressure 

So, while we should celebrate this win, we should also remember that this was just one issue. We cannot become complacent, and it proves that we need to rally. If this Government is truly listening, then we need to make sure we are shouting. We need to keep the pressure on and keep pushing for better. 

We demand: 

  • End all forms of state ableism;
  • A universal payment for all disabled people and carers – autonomy and financial independence is a right! 
  • End continuous assessments for disabled and chronically ill people;
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities;
  • Make transport and public spaces accessible; 
  • Guaranteed access to education at all levels;
  • An appropriate school place for every child; 
  •  Publicly funded “gold standard” child and eldercare in our communities.
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