Irish political parties are neglecting marginalised groups of society while they jockey with each other for votes, it was claimed today.
UCG law professor Donncha O’Connell said that Travellers, gays and lesbians and people with disabilities were losing out as Fianna Fáil, Labour and others tried to win the working class vote.
“Those on the progressive left in Irish politics must connect in a more real way with the marginalised groups whose common interests they represent,” he told today’s Parnell Summer School in Co Wicklow.
“They must become the legitimate and authoritative voice of those experiencing marginalisation.
“They must seek the valid input of these groups to better equality policies.”
The outspoken don said Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Justice Minister Michael were “playing a smart political game” because they had spotted that “the new middle classes might still have working class values“.
The law expert also claimed that politicians were slow to embrace EU law like Senator David Norris’s victory to decriminalise homosexuality in 1987.
“It took five years for the Oireachtas to respond to that decision and one can only speculate how long it would have taken to reform the law without the European Court’s decision,” he said.
Mr O’Connell also referred to the court fight by Cork mother and MEP Kathy Sinnott to force the state to provide her 23-year-old autistic son, Jamie, with life-long primary education.
“Recourse to the courts by parents of children with special education needs arose as a direct consequence of the failure of successive governments to provide for such rights as required by the Constitution,” he explained.