Attacking messenger does disabled community no service

It was with deep regret that I read the article last Friday in the Irish Examiner written by Tony Humphreys.

Firstly, let me express my total support for the vast majority of parents who, quite rightly, expressed alarm and outrage at [the] opinions expressed. His views, in my opinion, most certainly do not reflect the opinion of the vast majority of academics and professionals working in the area who deal with our autistic children and adults. I have received several phones calls this week from health professionals expressing their complete support for the stance of parents regarding this article. The huge reaction from parents to the article clearly points to their opposition to the views expressed by Tony Humphreys.

Controversial articles are bound to generate debate, especially in such an emotionally charged area as autism. The debate generated in the press, radio and online has shown clearly how out of touch Tony Humphreys is. I do not agree with his views, his theory or the conclusions he draws, but I do respect his right to express them. Furthermore, I respect the Irish Examiner’s right to publish such an article.

Those of us who have been campaigning over many years for the rights of the disabled have been lucky that papers such as the Irish Examiner have allowed our views to be aired.

It is widely accepted amongst media analysts that the Irish Examiner is distinguished by its strong social conscience. It has given in depth coverage to issues related to intellectual and physical disabilities. It has supported changes to discriminatory legislation. In 2007, Inclusion Ireland gave an award to the paper for its coverage of issues related to people with intellectual ability.

The Irish Examiner “has a long history of promoting and reporting on the cause of people with disabilities and was at the forefront of all the national coverage of the campaign on the need for rights based legislation”, and “its journalists have courageously reported on issues such as the lack of standards for disability services, illegal charges, the appalling conditions in psychiatric hospitals in a sympathetic and non sensational way.” (Inclusion Ireland)

It saddens me greatly to see the justified anger and annoyance of views, opinions expressed by Tony Humphreys channelled by some towards the Irish Examiner. It does the disabled community no service to attack the messenger, especially one who has supported us in our struggles for real equality and inclusion in our society.

Kieran Kennedy

Shine/IPAA

The Shine Centre

Carrigaline

CoCork

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