Bernadette Scully trial highlights discrimination against disabilities

The trial of Bernadette Scully has highlighted how children with disabilities and their parents live like second class citizens in Ireland, Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay said yesterday.

Offaly GP Bernadette Scully was acquitted on Friday of the manslaughter of her 11-year-old daughter Emily, who died in her care in 2012.

“It never ceases to amaze me, it’s a kind of a simple truth in Ireland that disability comes into your life you become a second-class citizen and the parent of a second-class citizen,” said Mr Finlay.

“It has been my experience all through my life and it remains the experience of young parents today.

“The moment a child is born with a disability you begin a lifelong battle with bureaucracy.”

Ms Scully cared for her 12-year-old daughter Emily, who had microcephaly and chronic epilepsy and could not speak or move.

“And one of the ironies, and it’s a cruel irony and you can see it when you read Bernadette Scully’s story, is the more extreme the disability the more alone you are,” Mr Finlay said.

“The more help you need the less you’re likely to get.”

Speaking on the Marian Finucane Show. he said the isolation experienced by carers of those with disabilities is not exclusive to Ms Scully.

“You can talk to any parent of a child in Ireland with a disability, particularly an intellectual disability, particularly if it’s accompanied by behavioural issues and health issues and, in the case of this little girl, her issues were extreme,” said Mr Finlay.

“She lived in constant pain, she was never able to sleep and her mother was essentially alone in dealing with all of that and that’s not uncommon.”

Seán O’Kelly, a 23-year-old wheelchair user, concurs with Mr Finlay’s assertion that people living with a disability in Ireland are treated like a second-class citizen.

“Until this ratification (UN Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities) comes in we will forever be treated as second-class citizens and I think that is disgraceful,” Mr O’Kelly told the Irish Examiner.

“Public transport is when I face discrimination the most and then the lack of access in buildings.

“In most cases, you feel discriminated against, you feel bad: ‘Why can’t I go there, why can’t I be the same as everybody else?’

“We all have abilities, we all have different abilities, so don’t diss [disrespect] my ability.”


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