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Statement on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Date: Sun 2nd Dec, 2018 | 10:21

Marking the International Day for of Persons with Disabilities, 3 December, President Michael D. Higgins today paid tribute to disability rights activists:

"When I was inaugurated as President of Ireland I stated that, in implementing the mandate I have been given, I will seek to achieve an inclusive citizenship, promoting the policies and practices needed to ensure that every citizen can participate and that everyone is treated with respect.

Our Republic must be a country where every citizen is afforded that most fundamental right: a voice in their society and community.

On the United Nations International Day of People with Disabilities, we are all invited to consider the many obstacles that remain; obstacles that limit the right of people with disabilities to full and meaningful participation in society.

As we do so, it is a source of great encouragement that we have, in recent decades, seen a welcome and positive change in society’s attitude to fellow citizens living with disabilities. 

It is a transformation which did not happen overnight. For many, change was distressingly slow, but where it has succeeded over the many years, it did so through the persistent effort by committed citizens determined to achieve positive change. Today, on this special day, as President of Ireland I wish to pay tribute to the resolute efforts of disability rights activists across the country. 

Let us use the success of previous advocates and activists to inspire us on the road ahead. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development pledges to ‘Leave No-One Behind.’ If we, as a community, are to benefit from the skills and talents of all our citizens, we must ensure that we have the policies and practices in place to enable all of our citizens to take part in all the processes that shape our shared future.” 

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*    During his first term in office, President Higgins attended or hosted a large number of events highlighting the work of people and organisations working to promote the rights of people with disabilities, including:

o    Reception for participants in the Intellectual Disability Supplement, November 2012

o    Address to the Fourth International Summer School on Disability Law and Policy, June 2012

o    Address to members of the Migraine Association of Ireland, February 2014 

o    Visit to Hamlin Fistula Hospital, Addis Ababa, November 2014.

o    Address at the Launch of IT Tralee's UNESCO Chair, February 2015  

o    Reception for Team Ireland that took part in the Special Olympics, November 2015  

o    Visit to the National Headquarters and Training Centre of the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, September 2016   

o    Meeting with NGOs in Ho Chi Minh City, November 2016  

o    Garden Party to celebrate Care and Solidarity in the Community, June 2017.

o    Reception for families on World Down Syndrome Day, March 2018 

o    Speech at the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics Ireland Games, June 2018  


*    In 2016, Áras an Uachtaráin became the first OPW managed building to provide ‘Changing Places’ facilities for people with profound learning or physical disabilities such as spinal injuries, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis. See 

*    The President has asked the OPW to organise special Irish Sign Language interpreted tours of Áras an Uachtaráin. Two such tours were organised in 2018 and the next ISL interpreted tour is scheduled for January 2019.