Sabina Higgins Speech at Christmas Fair & Family Forum
St. Louise's Centre, Sunday 8th December 2019
It is a great pleasure to join you all here today for your Christmas Fair and Family Forum.
St Louise’s Support Group is an organisation and initiative of which I am very proud to be patron. It stands as a great reminder of the many milestones we, in this country, have reached on our journey towards improving the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and their families.
For over a decade St Louise’s has played its own significant role in that changing landscape, including in the provision of a supportive and nurturing environment for residents, while also ensuring they receive the independence and respect that is a fundamental part of essential human dignity.
We know that, sadly, there was a time when fellow citizens living with an intellectual disability were excluded from so many aspects of everyday life, limited not so much by their disability as by the attitudes of so many members of society. The ignorance, prejudice and misinformation which led to such attitudes is gradually being erased by the many individuals and organisations who advocate with such dedication on behalf of those with intellectual disabilities.
Unfortunately, however, some stereotyping still lingers within a society that can no longer be excused on the grounds of lack of knowledge or awareness of the talent, skills and creativity that exists in abundance amongst those members of our communities who live with a disability.
We can be so grateful, therefore, to all those who work so hard to create homes, communities and environments where those living with disabilities are not defined or limited by narrow stereotyping, but are enabled to have their voices heard; their talents respected and to be defined by their skills and abilities and by all of their wonderful possibilities.
By shaping such a positive future for such a vital and important group within our communities, they are also crafting a better and a fairer society for all of our citizens – a society that has become increasingly aware of the valuable contribution that people living with an intellectual disability can make to their families, their schools, their workplaces and to the lives of all of those who are fortunate to know them.
Here at the St Louise Centre you, the residents, are empowered to become active and visible participants in society, pursuing your own interests with members of the wider community by joining walking groups, participating in céilís, becoming involved in the local active retirement group and, in so many ways, maintaining vital connections with the vibrant neighbourhood in which you live.
You are also encouraged to raise your voices and play your role in the ongoing success of the St Louise Centre through monthly meetings of the self advocacy group - a group which recognises that it is you, the residents and service users, who must decide the shape and future of the community and home you wish to share here together.
May I, at this point, take the opportunity to thank all of those who are involved with St Louise’s Support Group. Your work has impacted so positively on the lives of those who live in the St Louise Centre, and also on the lives of their families who know their loved ones are happy, well cared for, and have their needs and hopes placed at the very centre of life in St Louise’s.
Thank you so much for inviting me to join you all here today. I wish you a most successful Craft fair, and a very, very happy Christmas.