New Events

National

no events posted in last week

Blog Feeds

Public Inquiry
Interested in maladministration. Estd. 2005

offsite link Tom Parlon launches new career in comedy

offsite link Presumption of innocence does not universally apply in Ireland Anthony

offsite link The poor standard of Irish political journalism Anthony

offsite link RTE bias: A failure of objective journalism Anthony

offsite link Alison O’Connor and professional deceit Anthony

Public Inquiry >>

The Saker
A bird's eye view of the vineyard

offsite link Iran at the center of the Eurasian riddle Mon Jun 17, 2019 23:00 | amarynth
By Pepe Escobar ? posted with permission With the dogs of war on full alert, something extraordinary happened at the 19th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) late last

offsite link US planning ?tactical assault? on Iran in response to ?tanker attack? ? report Mon Jun 17, 2019 22:15 | The Saker
RT reports:   UN sources believe that the United States is planning to carry out a ?tactical assault on Iran? in response to the attack on two oil tankers in

offsite link Turkish Artillery Struck Syrian Army Positions Near Idlib Mon Jun 17, 2019 19:05 | Scott
Syrian War Report ? June 17, 2019: Turkish Artillery Struck Syrian Army Positions Near Idlib   On June 16, Turkey said on that its forces had struck positions of the

offsite link Ukraine will be coerced into making peace in Donbass Mon Jun 17, 2019 16:35 | The Saker
By Petr Akopov Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard Source: https://vz.ru/world/2019/6/... Ukraine is important for the US only in the context of their relationship with Russia, and blocks the

offsite link The Vineyard BookShelf ? ?bookshelf_survey? Search tool now available Mon Jun 17, 2019 16:17 | admin-herb
by Herb Swanson (webmaster) Vineyard BookShelf Project In February, I proposed to Saker the creation of a ‘Vineyard Bookshelf’. Many great books are noted and linked in the comments. However

The Saker >>

Human Rights in Ireland
A Blog About Human Rights

offsite link China?s LGBT Community Mon Apr 15, 2019 19:19 | Human Rights

offsite link Declaration of Human Rights at Sea Mon Apr 08, 2019 07:31 | Human Rights

offsite link NZ Watchdog On Limits Of Free Speech Thu Mar 28, 2019 11:44 | Human Rights

offsite link US Abortion Restrictions Violating The Human Rights Of Women Thu Mar 14, 2019 15:33 | Human Rights

offsite link Human Rights Watch Urges the Human Rights Council to Renew and Strengthen Mandate of UN Commission Tue Mar 12, 2019 21:51 | Human Rights

Human Rights in Ireland >>

Cedar Lounge
For lefties too stubborn to quit

offsite link A central contradiction 12:29 Tue Jun 18, 2019 | WorldbyStorm

offsite link The all-island economy and Brexit 11:39 Tue Jun 18, 2019 | WorldbyStorm

offsite link Making contradictory Brexit promises? 07:40 Tue Jun 18, 2019 | WorldbyStorm

offsite link Labour?s woes, redux? 07:39 Tue Jun 18, 2019 | WorldbyStorm

offsite link Dracula Fever ? East Wall History Group ? Saturday 22nd June 10:42 Mon Jun 17, 2019 | WorldbyStorm

Cedar Lounge >>

Open Letter to Seamus Greene, Director, National Parents & Siblings Alliance

category national | health / disability issues | opinion/analysis author Wednesday September 28, 2005 12:44author by Miriam Cottonauthor email miriamcotton at eircom dot net Report this post to the editors

Response to an address given at a public meeting held in Dunmanway, Co Cork on Thursday the 22nd of September on the subject of Special Education Needs .The meeting was organised by the West Cork Parents Action Group and its aims were to discuss the effect of recent changes in the administration and teaching of children with special needs, resulting from the introduction of the Education of Persons with Special Needs Act 2004.

(The meeting was addressed by Mr Pat Curtain, CEO of the National Council for Special Education; Dr Michael Shevlin, Trinity College, Dublin and member of the NCSE’s independent research body and Mr Seamus Greene, Director of the National Parents & Siblings Alliance. )

Dear Seamus

During your presentation in Dunmanway last week, you made the following statement:

"The reality is, teachers will often go into the staff room and say ‘that Johnny X, he’s a real pain’ if they have a difficult experience of a child in class."

You encouraged us, as parents of children with disability, to understand that this is the way teachers sometimes respond to our children and that we should accept it as a normal and even useful exchange between professionals. This is an interesting perspective on teachers and their work.

As parents, we are instructed to believe that teachers have knowledge and skills which go well beyond anything that we would ordinarily have ourselves and that teachers are best left to get on with it, without our ‘interference’.

For the parent of a child with SEN, two myths underlie this proposition:

1. That the teaching profession is adhering to standards and ideals from a position of considered, educated objectivity.

2. That parents are emotional, ill informed and lacking in objectivity.

There is, of course, nothing surprising in the statement of yours quoted above – certainly not for this parent. However, coming from a member of a profession, which is notoriously defensive about its professionalism and any perceived encroachment onto its territory, it gives the lie to all of the profession’s grand claims on its own behalf. As an example of emotional, subjective, indiscreet and thoroughly unprofessional conduct, it does very well, in fact.

In certain respects it’s good you have implicitly acknowledged what most parents have long since known: that the concept of professional objectivity is often a sham. The reality for most parents of children with disability is that professionalism as it is actually applied (not theoretically defined) is very often nothing more than professional ego used as a barrier to mutually respectful engagement with parents, pupils and others. In fact, professional ego is a lurking demon in many encounters with teachers - a sort of spoiled brat that we have to tip-toe around for fear of waking or displeasing him. The myth of professional objectivity is also destructive to essential, cooperative partnerships with parents. Many teachers lose objectivity very quickly when asked reasonable questions about what they are doing and offered suggestions about alternative approaches - let alone challenged about the standards they are maintaining in their work.

The most critical factor in all of this is that basic teacher training does not include any training on working with children with special needs. You would think that the profession would be prepared to show more humility but no, even in this context, it generally appears to have no qualms about dismissing the involvement of a group of people who can actually tell them much of what they need to know. The net effect for parents is that they end up most often dealing with teachers whose knowledge of their children’s educational and learning needs is negligible but yet are expected to disguise and withhold their own often extensive knowledge for fear of being accused of interfering or of causing negative consequences for themselves and their children. And many of us have had our fears proved only too right on this last point.

In other words, this is a profession which is both unaccountable and uneducated about what it is doing with our SEN children. This is an issue for every parent, not just those of us who have children with special needs. However, the experiences of parents who are in the SEN predicament are bringing the worst failings of the teaching profession into sharp focus. Any parent who does not have a child with special needs should be aware that the objectives of SEN parents will ultimately benefit their children too. The need for a true parent teacher partnership that goes beyond being 'allowed' to do some fundraising for the school (cf virtually every PTA in the country) has never been more urgent. If most children get through education reasonably successfully it has as much to do with the ability of the child to cope (which is mostly to do with parental nurturing in any case) and is often in spite of much of what is happening in school. It has little to do with a professional approach to the child as an individual – a basic but as yet unrealised pre-requisite for working with SEN children. Nothing in this is intended to imply that there are no good teachers or schools. What is argued, though, is that the general ethos of the profession's attitude towards parents is doing much to undermine the work of good teachers - especially as it relates to children with special needs.

The reality of the needs of a child with learning difficulty unavoidably smashes through the one-size-fits-all approach that is necessary to keep the crowd under control. This is a frustrating experience for everyone concerned and I do not know a parent with an SEN child who does not recognise the difficulty it creates in a mainstream classroom. But we are forced to send our children into mainstream schools that lack appropriate facilities and to leave them to the educational care of teachers who are almost completely untrained in how to work with an ASD or a Down Syndrome child, for example. In the second wealthiest country in the world this is straightforwardly a scandal. In the US, parents are often involved in interviewing the specialist staff who will be working with their children. How long is the road we have to tread to get to that point? For many teachers in Ireland (probably most) such a scenario would be seen as sacrilege - a toppling of the profession form its high pedestal that could never be countenanced. And yet this practice has proved hugely beneficial to everyone concerned wherever it has been adopted.

We hear virtually every day about the superiority of our education system and how it is among the best in the world. This is yet another myth. Illiteracy is now running at 22% in Ireland. Nothing can tell us more about how our education system is failing. Of course the fact of being an unaccountable profession is what is creating many of the problems in the first place. As one senior officer in the Department of Education and Welfare expressed it: 'Three independent witnesses to an open act of child abuse would be about the only thing that would result in any kind of reprimand to a principal or teacher'.

Any teacher or principal doing a reasonable job of work has nothing to fear from being accountable. The best of them would actually welcome it as a support and as being in the interests of promoting high standards. Parents are not out to ‘get’ teachers – we are much too committed to our children’s education for that and, being normal people, the majority of us prefer to communicate pleasantly and reasonably with teachers. But we demand as much in return for ourselves and have, as primary carers, a far greater interest in what is happening to our children in school than the teachers themselves.

There is an urgent need for a layer of effective management to whom Principals should be accountable and to whom parents can appeal if unprofessional conduct is experienced. Relying on Boards of Management is miserably failing our children and schools in this respect. It is virtually unheard of for a BOM to uphold a complaint against a teacher, let alone a principal. Most of them will include several teachers from the very school which is being investigated. If we put three of his colleagues on the jury of an investigation into a Garda’s conduct, imagine the outcry we would have.

Not even the Educational Welfare Officers, the very people charged with ensuring the welfare of children in schools have any authority to direct a principal to modify his or her behaviour where they are behaving unreasonably – even to the detriment of a child. What is the point of the EWO at all, if that is the case? Of course the teaching profession would squeal if proposals like these were taken up. The howls of outrage over providing a report on how each school is performing (and there is no such thing as a reasonable objection to a FAIR system of school assessment) have given us an indication of how the profession turns when it is made to do a little of what it is doing to our children all the time: to undergo a little test or two of its own every few years.

We need organisations like the NPSA to get behind sensible propositions like this. However, it seems that instead, we are likely to have to go on suffering the sort of stereotypical and patronising attitude that, in my view, characterised your references to parents during your talk last week.

On Thursday last, you outlined your theory on the 'stages' that parents go through when they find out that their child has a disability.

1. “The misery and anger stage”

‘Lets not even go there’ you said, such was your contempt for the worth of this response.

You failed however to mention at all, the most relevant thing to your audience – or at least it was elided into the issue of discovering that one’s child has a disability: that the misery and anger that many teachers are causing parents and pupils is all very rational given the attitudes that we are encountering in schools. The suggestion was that there was no dealing with parents who were in this state of mind. Where schools are concerned, most parents have worn out every other possible approach before we arrive at this stage. Many of us have been very badly treated and our children’s interests abused by the time we become necessarily angry. This is something that I would have expected any self-respecting organisation calling itself a parents support group to address boldly and plainly, in view of the reality. It needs urgently to be said that the teaching profession is frequently driving parents to the point of distraction because of their intransigence even though they openly acknowledge that they are not trained and badly need the information that parents can give them. But no, the professional ego problem means that the possibility of sensible and mutually respectful dialogue is taboo for most of them.

2. “Internet and other research stage” - leading to the erroneous conviction by the parent that they are now some sort of expert about their child’s educational needs.

This caricature of parents as going through some impliedly intense, misguided and manic quest for information does an enormous disservice to the truth. The majority of parents, in fact, set about understanding their children’s conditions calmly and collectedly. Yes, and no apologies for it, they use the internet and libraries and any other source of information usefully available to them - which often includes extensive access to other professional inputs and therapies all of which can have a direct bearing on what is urgently needed in the classroom. This is called research or careful study in every other context. To disparage it when it is the parents of a child with SEN who are doing it is profoundly insulting to both the intelligence and motives of the parents and also to the extent of the very real, and very professional experience that parents have gained by the time their children reach school age. But there again, it appears, there is nothing to make a lot of teachers feel more threatened and inadequate than the presence of a parent who actually knows what they are talking about. As is pointed out in the article referred to in one of the links below, this valuable knowledge base will cost the state nothing to tap into. All that is required is a directive to teachers to cop themselves on and to start learning from and respecting the parents of their SEN pupils. Again, I would have expected the Director of the NPSA to make a priority of promoting this objective. Instead, your definition of ‘listening more to parents’ turned out to mean not listening at all in fact, but patting us on the head and ‘giving us the good news’ as though all we needed from teachers was to be patronised.

3. "Discussion and engagement - there are no rights and wrongs”

You presented this as the third stage and in fact as the one that you yourself had favoured from the outset. I believe you meant to imply that this stage alone was the only rational one of the three. Firstly, it is not the parents who are delaying the possibility of discussion and engagement where teachers are concerned. This is ordinarily one of the first things we ask for – whichever profession we are trying to communicate with. We are, rather, being told to ‘butt out’ – as if we had no business in our children’s education.

Also, there are plenty of ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’. There are right ways and wrong ways to work with SEN children and teachers need to know this. A lot of serious and unnecessary mistakes continue to be made by teachers for lack of discussion and engagement with parents.

The root cause of all this frustration, debate and wasted effort is that we do not have appropriate, rights-based legislation. Politicians and professionals are everywhere making lucrative careers out of the issue but nothing changes for the children. In fact the direct services that children receive are being cut back while jobs for administrators have increased. Voluntary groups are mushrooming all over the country and collectively beating their heads ineffectually against a system which is designed to keep them doing just that, indefinitely. Politicians turn up at their meetings to seem concerned but all the time they are signing up to policies they know are not going to give us what they pretend they want to see too. It is only by guaranteeing entitlements and standards that the appropriate measures will ever be taken to eliminate all of these difficulties. We need rights-based legislation and we need it now. Again, Seamus, we did not hear you speak of that objective last Thursday. The finger of blame points directly at the political establishment, which has now ranged itself against this solution. Fianna Fail, the PD’s (of course), Fine Gael and Labour have proved themselves uniformly treacherous to this essential objective. Unless or until they reverse their policies in favour of rights for people with disability, no parent, family member, true friend, neighbour or person with a disability should even contemplate voting for any of them. There is a growing consensus among the million-strong disability lobby on this point and there are many of us out here who are dedicated to making it the litmus test of the kind of society our elected representatives are prepared to commit themselves to.

Prior to the adoption of the Disability Bill 2004, there were plenty of voices warning that the government had no intention of giving us the legislation we wanted. But those voices were silenced and rubbished from within the disability lobby itself. Kathy Sinnott, for one, was vehement in her opposition to this legislation and warned time and again that we should coalesce around rejecting the Education of Persons with Special Needs Act (which she rightly predicted was the blue print for the Disability Bill itself). She pointed out all of the imperfections in the former not least of which was the larding of the legislation in ministerial discretion rather than rights for individuals. She also pointed out that the so-called ‘rights’ it mentions are seriously restricted to the amount of resource allocated to them - whic is exactly the way it has always been.

In effect, nothing has changed. I noticed, Seamus, that you failed to challenge Mr Pat Curtain when he claimed that the EPSN Act incorporated a number of rights. Certainly, the word ‘rights’ is used extensively throughout the bill. However, the Act emphatically and explicitly does not guarantee any rights. A right without a guarantee is no right at all. Mr Curtain has of course been appointed under the terms of the act itself by ministerial discretion (as are all of the Council’s officers) and is unlikely ever to do anything for a parent or a child that would incur the ire of Minister Hannafin. And we all know where she stands on this issue.

Of the few provisions of the EPSN Act that have actually come into force, it’s telling that one of the first is one that emphasises the right, not of SEN children at all, but of typical children to an appropriate education! The government has scarcely begun even to consider addressing the neglect of children with disability before it is already rendering them second-class citizens again. This is clearly an intentionally divisive aspect of the legislation – designed to create antipathy between the two groups of parents and children and to characterise SEN parents and their children as wanting more than our fair share when, in fact if we could only catch up we’d be doing well.

Mr Curtain also had to admit that so far, the Individual Education Plan, which is the heart and soul of educational provision for SEN children has not yet even been defined. There are no guidelines for schools and none anticipated until next summer. A network of Special Education Needs Officers (SENOs) have been appointed at huge expense with no information available to them with which to advise schools on how to design and implement and IEP. The SENOs, it seems, have been spending their time, not advising teachers about how to teach SEN children, but on carving up the resource allocation under the new General Allocation Model - another nightmare altogether. So, the new ‘rights’ Mr Curtain referred to translate in reality into the rights of thousands of children to have their resource allocations cut. Well, we can now understand at least why the government can claim to have increased spending on SEN. The money has been taken from the children themselves, increased, and redirected to the National Council and its staff, presumably. But again, Seamus, not a word from you about the reduction in resources for the children themselves. Not a word from you about the need to employ the best quality Special Needs Assistants. In fact, you went so far as to defend principals who were employing poorly qualified SNAs without even interviewing better qualified applicants, by saying that it would be difficult for principals to know exactly what criteria they should use.

In conclusion, I revert to what I believe, in common with a majority of the disability lobby, is the root of this whole problem. For all the best intentions of many people on the Disability Legislation Consultation Group (of which you were a prominent member) and the undoubted commitment of most of them to securing rights-based legislation, they were, at best, naïve in the extreme ever to trust that this government would deliver on what were self-evidently hollow promises being made for some time beforehand. The tragedy is now that it appears that some of the self-same people are readying themselves for a similarly foolhardy relationship with the possible FG and Labour coalition - who have already declared that they do not support rights-based legislation. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

I don’t suppose Kathy Sinnott derives much pleasure from being able to say ‘I told you so’.

Yours sincerely
Miriam Cotton

Useful Links

http://www.edunet.ie/parents/
National Parents Council

http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=70460
Interview with a parent about her experience of trying to obtain appropriate support from professionals.

www.senap.org
The West Cork Parents Action Group

www.npsa.ie
National Parents & Siblings Alliance

The National Council for Special Education
Trim
Co Meath
046 9486400
www.ncse.ie

Related Link: http://www.senap.org
author by M Cottonpublication date Wed Sep 28, 2005 13:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Apologies to Mr Curtin for misspelling his name.

Also, parents might be interested to know that the National Parents Council operates a helpline between 10.00 and 12.30 each day on 01 887 4477

author by Seamus Greene - National Parents' and Siblings' Alliancepublication date Thu Sep 29, 2005 13:27author email npsa at eircom dot netauthor address author phone 01-8624100Report this post to the editors

Dear Miriam

I was amazed to read the reference in the above document to myself and the talk I gave in Dunmanway last Thursday. Particularly, as you had the opportunity to raise the issues at the meeting itself and afterwards when we spoke in the bar. I would have been happy on both occasions to have responded to your comments.

It is my belief that the disability sector should aim at providing a united front in its battle for services and for rights. This kind of public argument only plays into the hands of those who prefer that the lot of people with disabilities and their families should not change.

I will simply say that your references to my speech were wildly inaccurate. However, as I said already, you could have clarified matters for both of us by making comments or asking questions at the meeting. Equally, you could have raised your issues with me afterwards.

As you probably know by now I have left a message on your phone inviting you to ring me and discuss these matters. I would welcome the opportunity to work with you on the issues that concern us both.

Finally, let me make it clear that I was speaking in Dunmanway as a representative of the National Parents’ and Siblings’ Alliance. I was not representing the teaching profession or any other educational interests nor was I implying that I have any mandate to do so.

Seamus Greene

author by Miriam Cottonpublication date Thu Sep 29, 2005 15:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I very much welcome your comment.

I attended the meeting in Dunmanway in my capacity as a writer on events and issues related to disability. It was a public meeting about a public issue and as such it is entirely appropriate to give a public response. For all we know the event will be reported in other media as well. Did you have some objection to media coverage of the event? Or would you prefer to have been able to specify what it should say? Would you have me silenced unless I am writing favourably?

As you have pointed out yourself, you were not there in a personal capacity but as the director of a national, public organisation purporting to serve the interests of parents and siblings of people with disability throughout Ireland. As a writer and parent with an equally legitimate interest to your own, I believe that all of the circumstances of this particular discussion whether they are conducted here or in a public meeting are straightforward. I am at a loss to understand why you believe it would be more appropriate to have restricted the discussion to the audience in Dunmanway?

It is precisely for want of open, honest debate - particularly with the political establishment - that the needs of people with disability are going unrecognsied and ignored. I would have thought that you, of all people, would support that principle - even if it involves some occasional critical analysis of your own position.

You are incorrect on a number of points. In fact, my partner did ask you directly during the question and answer session after the presentations about the issues raised in the piece above. He mentioned specifically, among other things, that he was disappointed by your caricature of parents. This is on record. Moreoever, we both of us mentioned it to you when you sought us out as we were about to leave - presumably because you wanted to asuage our freely expressed concerns. I am sure you will recollect these conversations perfectly well.

As to the unity of the disability lobby, it is precisely because of people within the disability lobby who were prepared to break the consensus on the need for rights-based legislation that we now have such appalling legislation and such indaequate and uninformed provision in our schools. This is something that it is essential to discuss publicly. Where previously there was a unanimous voice in pursuit of proper rights, some are now advocating an engagement with the FG/Labour 'let's suck it and see' policy. I can understand why those people would not feel too proud of putting their names to the idea in public but that is no reason for the rest of us to feel intimidated about discussing the situation openly and to understand who is responsible. It is also incorrect to pretend that this is a debate of no concern outside the disability lobby. Everybody has a right participate and to understand what is going on.

You do not really engage with the substantive points made in my letter, which is disappointing because those are really the issues that are of significance to any parent or teacher reading this. I did not say that you were acting as a representative of the teaching profession, I said you were a member of the profession - a point which you yourself stressed several times during your presentation. It's all very well using expressions like 'wildly inaccurate' but there needs to be some substantive evidence for that accusation if it is true. You don't really elaborate, though. I firmly believe that there was a strong tendency in your presentation towards the traditional representation of the teacher /parent relationship as that of the parent/child. There is no doubt that you failed to describe the very common and very difficult experiences that parents are having all around the country where shools and teachers are concerned. As such, it was a wasted opportunity, in my view - and in that of others present as well, I might add.

As the founder of a support group myself, I know and appreciate what it takes to make that effort - particularly as a parent of someone with a disability. We have less time than other people and yet must give far more if we want it to succeed. We need the cooperation and support of others but we dont very often get as much of it as we need. It is not helpful when we meet with unreasonable or strident crticism because we are not perfect in all we do. However, that is a very different thing from realising that someone is advocating a policy or a pricniple that is fundamentally detrimental. There has to be a place for challenging that. Anyone who is unprepared for that sort of challenge should not put themselves forward as a public representative of any kind, in my view.

As a matter of fact, I was not aware of your attempts to telephone me personally for the simple reason that my phone line is currently under investigation for a line fault! If you would like to take it up with Eircom, I will be hugely grateful to you. That said, this is a public issue and the discussion deserves to be heard in public, in my view. You are of course completely free to publish your own pieces here on the disability forum that Indymedia have set up for us.

I also think it is disingenuous for you to claim surprise at the idea that I have written about or reported this meeting. I know that you are fully aware that I write for Indymedia and others because we have had several conversations about it - in particular about a piece I wrote on the disability legislation passed in June. In fact I sought your opinion about that a few times before it was eventually published. I notified you personally of the existence of the disability forum on Indymedia. For all these reasons I am disappointed by your attempt to characterise me personally rather than respond to the issues raised. It's an old trick, though, and hopefully discerning readers will be able to see through it.

(Link to the article)

http://www.indymedia.ie/index.php?topic=disabilityissues®ion=&language=

author by Miriam Cottonpublication date Thu Sep 29, 2005 15:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The link in the comment above does not appear to be working. Here it is again:

http://www.indymedia.ie/index.php?topic=disabilityissues®ion=&language=

author by Kathy Sinnottpublication date Fri Sep 30, 2005 09:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

September 29, 2005

Miriam,


I derive no pleasure from knowing I (and others) was right about the
Education for Persons with Special Needs Act and the Disability Act. I
would love to have been proved wrong. Unfortunately we are saddled with
two pieces of extremely regressive and damaging legislation.

It is the experience of families contacting the Hope Project Helpline
that the Education for Persons with Special Needs Act is already
ensuring that the situation for children with special education needs is
worse this school year than last. SNA's are being lost and resource
teaching hours diminished.

Department paid psychologists are being controlled in what they can say
in their assessments while independent psychologists, paediatricians
and psychiatrists' assessments are being rejected as it suits the DOES.
The department has drastically curtailed home tuition grants and is
slowly trying to eliminate their use for SEN students. Children are
often put in mainstream schools on a sink or swim basis and when they
sink they are denied tuition or another school because the child "has a
placement already".

When I talk about the situation to MEPs from other Euro 15 countries
they find it hard to believe.

I spoke to the Commissioner for Education and Culture during the summer
about the plight of Irish children with special education needs. He
seemed very concerned and a little shocked as he listened. When I was
finished he agreed it was terrible but recommended I speak to the one
person he said that he knew who could and would help, his fellow
Commissioner Charlie McCreevy. I think I left him more shocked by my
reaction to his advice.

I certainly will not give up the fight for good rights based disability
legislation in Ireland. At the same time I am working with other MEPs to
get a rights based standard for disability at a European level.
Difficult as this will be to get, maybe that is what it will take to
force Ireland to honour the rights of disabled people that we have in
the Irish Constitution.

Miriam, you have put your finger on many important problems and
problematic perceptions that unfortunately make life much harder for the
very people for whom we should be striving to make life easier.

Thank you,

Kathy Sinnott MEP
Ireland South (Munster)

author by Sean Crudden - imperopublication date Fri Sep 30, 2005 20:21author email sean at impero dot iol dot ieauthor address Jenkinstown, Dundalk, Co Louth.author phone 087 9739945Report this post to the editors

Hi Miriam

Your concerns could be generalised - as you have pointed out yourself. It's not just the parents of SEN children who are concerned about schools. As an older person and a former teacher (my family are all more or less finished "school") I often say to people that children are lucky in the modern world if they get through school without serious damage being done to them.

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=67848&search_text=Sean%20Crudden&results_offset=30
author by Fergus Finlaypublication date Tue Nov 01, 2005 12:31author email fergus.finlay at barnardos dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Miriam,

As you suggested I've been browsing the disability section of the website. I must say I was really surprised at your correspondence with Seamus Greene. Although I wasn't at the meeting in Dunmanway, I have attended many public meetings over the years with Seamus, and I would be absolutely amazed if you haven't completely misunderstood him. There is no stronger advocate in Ireland for disability rights that Seamus, no stronger critic of the present Disabilty Bill, no better advocate at any forum, and no-one more determined to ensure that the Disability Bill is brought to the point, through whatever process, that it will represent a genuine and complete breakthrough for people with disabilities.

Incidentally, having known Seamus for years, the idea that he would wish in any way to silence anyone is absurd. He does passionately believe in a united movement, but in all my dealings with him over the years he has always welcomed open debate.

You invited me in to the website - that's my first reaction!

Fergus Finlay

author by Miriam Cottonpublication date Tue Nov 01, 2005 20:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thank you for your contribution to the site. I don't doubt your experience of Seamus Greene but this is not in any sense a debate that is intended to be personalised in the way that your contribution implies. To that end I believe you are entirely missing the point of what was written.

On the narrower point of how professionals and state bodies interact with parents - which is what this article is actually about - I stand by the observations that I made about what I heard at the meeting in Dunmanway. You were not present of course, and as mentioned above, I was by no means alone in responding as I did to the presentation made. As a member of the teaching profession for over 30 years and as an ex principal addressing an audience made up substantially of teachers and SNAs, the bias towards the profession and the caricature of parents that many of us are too familiar with, was very apparent to many people there.

This is not a samll point. The arrogance of many professionals and state administrators towards parents is a constant, additional burden to those of us who have to try to persuade them to engage with us and to respect and value our experience and input where our chldrens' disability is concerned. The introduction of the recent changes in the provision of resources for SEN children is a case in point. Not a single word, for instance, has been communicated to any parent the length and breadth of the country by the NCSE - no letter, no explanation of any kind whatsoever.

What does not help at all is when in circumstances like these, one of the very people who purports to represent our interests lapses into undermining caricature and condescension (albeit inadvertent) at a meeting convened partly to address these exact problems.

I have to disagree with you also that SG wanted this discussion taken out of the public domain. Perhaps you would read the exchanges above again?

Seamus Green had no horns on his head that I could discern and Im sure is a very amicable fellow as a rule - as dedicated as the rest of us to improving the lot of people affected by disability. There are thousands of unsung heroes around the country about whom the same could be said.

While I can understand that you may have wanted to wade in on behalf of your friend and colleague, and am genuinely very gald that you did so, I must ask you nevertheless to take back your slap on the wrist! The article is an interpretation of a particular presentation about a particular issue given on a particular occasion. Even the Seamus Greene's of this world might be getting something wrong?

Number of comments per page
  
 
© 2001-2019 Independent Media Centre Ireland. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by Independent Media Centre Ireland. Disclaimer | Privacy