New Members Appointed to Disability Advisory Committee to Monitor State Obligations

Five new members have been appointed to serve on the statutory advisory committee to support the monitoring of Ireland’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

In March 2018 Ireland ratified CRPD, an international human rights treaty, which sets out to promote, protect and ensure that all persons with disabilities can exercise their rights the same way as everybody else. In 2019 the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission set up the first advisory board to support its statutory function of monitoring Ireland’s implementation of the UN Convention.

The work of the Committee is guided by the core principles that underpin CRPD.
The new members appointed to the Disability Advisory Board (DAC) will serve for a three year term and all were appointed after open competition, with the majority of the board being people with disabilities.

The members of the Disability Advisory Board (DAC) are:

  • Gary Allen
  • Fiona Anderson
  • Jacqui Browne
  • Adrian Carroll
  • James Cawley
  • John Conama
  • Michelle (Shelly) Gaynor
  • Eliona Gjecaj
  • Brian Hayes
  • Peadar O’Dea
  • Aoife Price
  • Vivian Rath
  • Michael Seifu

As set out under Section 18 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014, the Chair and Vice Chair must be Members of the Commission.

A recent Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) report, published in June of this year, found that lone parents and working-age adults with disabilities experience “distinctively high rates of income poverty, deprivation and consistent poverty”.

Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said:

“In our annual report published in June of this year, once again we saw that discrimination against people with disabilities accounted for the majority of calls to the Commission seeking aid.”

“The pandemic saw a rollback of services that has been devastating, causing stagnation or indeed regression for some, and extreme isolation for many others. We must now work together to ensure that people with disabilities are accorded equality and human rights under international law. I wholeheartedly welcome the new members of the DAC, they bring enormous expertise and experience with them to the board, and I look forward to their contributions to making Ireland a better place for all people with disabilities to live and work in.”


Biographies of new members

Gary Allen

Originally from Roscommon, Gary has been living in Galway with his wife, Linda, for almost 20 yrs. Having graduated from DCU in 1991 with a degree in Computer Science, he is a confirmed geek and avid reader. He is a founder member of Galway Sailability and a Past Commodore of Galway Bay Sailing Club. Since his mid-teens he has had a passion for personal development and human potential and holds two Advanced Diploma’s in Executive and Life Coaching. He is also a member of the International Coaching Federation.
He passionately believes that everyone has the potential to make a valuable contribution to society. As someone born with Spina Bifida he knows how important it is that disabled people see themselves as valued members of society and hopes that the work of the DAC will help promote and develop those ideals.

Fiona Anderson

Fiona holds a Certificate in Community Development from UCG, a BA in Sociological, Political and Legal Science, a LLM-in International Comparative Disability Law and Public Policy from NUI Galway, and currently completing the final year of the LLB Programme at NUI Galway. Fiona has a broad medical syndrome combined with psychosocial and mental health disabilities.
Her thesis for the LLM was entitled “Irish Mental Health Inpatient Services: In Crisis, A Shambles and Disintegrating”. Fiona tracked the most important non-compliance issues of fifty-eight approved centres devising tables and compiling statistics revealing non-compliance issues were repetitive and replicated from facility to facility on a countrywide basis.
Fiona is a long-standing advocate for the human rights approach to medical and mental healthcare and her primary interests revolve around medical and mental health law and practices and the implementation of UNCRPD is of particular interest in advancing the human rights of persons with disabilities in practice too.

Jacqui Browne

Jacqui has over 35 years’ experience of working at local, national, European and International levels as a disability equality activist and consultant. She is secretary of the Board of the Independent Living Movement of Ireland (ILMI). Jacqui is Chairperson of DESSA – the Disability Equality Specialist Support Agency which is a Community Development Human Rights focused organisation. Jacqui is also a member of the HSE Board Committee on Patient Safety and Quality; the Disability Stakeholders Group under the National Disability Inclusion Strategy; the Irish Thalidomide Association and the Irish Platform for Patient Organisations, Science and Industry (IPPOSI); the Irish Steering Committee of the International Foundation for Integrated Care; The European Patients’ Academy on Therapeutic Innovation; and the Patient Forum of HPRA – The Health Products Regulatory Authority.

Adrian Carroll

Adrian is a law graduate with Autism Spectrum Condition who has recently completed a LLM (International and Comparative Disability Law and Policy) (NUIG) with a thesis on how CRPD and international policy on Assistive Technology can help bridge the gap between higher education and employment for people with cognitive disabilities. Living in Killarney, Adrian holds a LLM (General) (UL), BCL (UL) and a Higher Diploma in Software Engineering and has professional experience with Niall Brosnan & Co Solicitors and SAP.

James Cawley

James is from Drumlish in County Longford, he is the youngest of nine siblings and married his Wife Ally during the Covid 19 pandemic! He is a very proud disabled person who lives independently using a Personal Assistance Service. He graduated with a BA in Business and Geography and a Professional Masters of Education at Maynooth University. James is the Policy Officer for Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI) a National Disabled Persons Organisation (DPO) led by and for Disabled people. Previous to his role with ILMI James was a secondary school teacher and has done research on disability issues on a National and European level. James is newly appointed to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) Disability Advisory Committee and featured in IHREC’s TV, Cinema and Radio campaign “All Human – All Equal”. He co – facilitated the disability studies certificate course at Maynooth University and in January 2022 was appointed by Minister Anne Rabbitte to the Disability Stakeholder Group (DSG 6). James is Chairperson of the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) and an active member of the Arthrogryposis Association of Ireland. James is also on the organising committee for Ireland’s newest booktown festival due to take place in April 2023 in his home county of Longford.

John Conama

Originally from Roscommon and married to Audrey, John is the director of the Centre for Deaf Studies at Trinity College. He is the board director of the Irish Deaf Society; He has been involved in many committees and working groups within the Civil Service and other Government bodies to monitor the progress of Deaf and disabled people in society. His recent publications have focused on Deaf people in society, mainly on language rights, equality and the sense of belonging within the community. He graduated with a doctorate from University College Dublin, and his thesis focused on a comparative policy analysis of signed languages in two countries – Finland and Ireland. John Bosco was awarded as one of the European Label Language Ambassadors for 2015.

Michelle (Shelly) Gaynor

Shelly is a peer mentor with the Independent Living Movement Ireland, with a passion for technology in particular Assistive Technology and the barriers it can break down for disabled people. I like the fact that technology puts everyone on an even playing field hence why human rights for disabled people are so important to me. I direct my own Personal assistants service through my own company shellyonwheels giving disabled people complete control over their own lives is very important to me.

Eliona Gjecaj

Eliona holds a First-Class Honours (1.1) LLM Degree in International and Comparative Disability Law and Policy, and a 1.1 B.A. International Degree, from NUI Galway. She has been recognised as 1 out of 10 Outstanding Young People of Ireland 2018 by JCI Ireland, for her disability activism, achievements, and volunteering with disability NGOs.
Eliona is chairperson of Galway Visually Impaired Activity Club since 2016, and auditor of the IMPACTE (Inclusion & Motivation for Promoting Access to Community Transformation & Engagement) Society, which she found and co-set up in 2017.

Brian Hayes

Brian works part time in Kilkenny County Council. He is chair of the National Platform of Self Advocates, an independent advocacy organisation run by people with intellectual disabilities. He recently led the organisation to become a limited company and is now a director. Brian is a graduate of the Leadership and Advocacy programme in the Waterford Institute of Technology and has been the chair of Séasamh and the Inclusion Ireland Advocacy Sub Committee of the Board. Brian has been appointed to many consultation groups including the Taskforce on Personalised Budgets and the Make Work Pay Consultation Group. He regularly meets with politicians and networks with other groups at a national level to represent the voice of people with intellectual disabilities.

Peadar O’Dea

Peadar is a disabled activist (visually impaired since birth) with an MA in Disability Studies from the University Of Leeds and has created a Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) in Leeds, and also in his home country of the Republic Of Ireland. He has experience working with the UNCRPD committee and the European Network On Independent Living (ENIL) and has delivered training on the UN 2030 Agenda (SDG’s) in Strasbourg, and has written a paper for ENIL about the SDG’s connection to the UNCRPD. He is currently serving as the Policy Officer for Disability Power Ireland (DPI) a newly established DPO and additionally is a part-time tutor at Maynooth University on the disability studies level 7 programme. In his free time, he likes to write and read fiction and has published a short story through the UK group Disability Arts Online (DAO) and study literary and social history.

Aoife Price

Aoife is a disabled researcher, academic, and activist from Waterford. She is currently working towards submitting her PhD at the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at the University of Galway. Her PhD focuses on alliances between social movements by examining disabled women’s participation in the disability and women’s movement. As a member of Disabled Women Ireland, she is passionate about the intersection of disability and gender. Over the past decade, Aoife has been an active advocate for people with psychosocial disabilities at national and international levels. She is a member of the Governments Disability Stakeholders Group, which works to monitor the implementation of government policy in the area of disability. Aoife has previously worked with the European Disability Forum, the Union of Students in Ireland, and the Centre for Effective Services in Ireland. She is a graduate with an MSc in Applied Social Research from Trinity College Dublin and a BA in Politics and International Relations from the University of Limerick.

Vivian Rath

Vivian is an academic, a human and disability rights advocate and change maker. He is currently an Adjunct Teaching Fellow in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) School of Education and the Research Officer with the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD). His Ph.D, titled the “Social Engagement Experiences of Disabled Students in Higher Education in Ireland”, focused on the areas of disabled student social engagement, transitions, voice and belonging. He has presented his published work and ideas for change across the EU. He obtained a Masters in Management from Smurfit Business School where he focused on the employment of graduates with disabilities. He believes in research for impact and has used his research to influence national policy development and bring about social change at a local and national level. He has worked to empower other disabled people to advocate for their rights and the rights of others and is the current Chair and founder of the TCD Forum for Disabled Staff & Postgraduate Students and the National Disabled Postgraduate Committee. He is a former member of the National Disability Inclusion Strategy Group and the National Disability Stakeholders Group.
A TCD Equality Champion and a Disabled Leader awardee he has focused on ensuring the voice of disabled people is represented at the decision making table. Highlighting the systemic and ableist barriers that prevent disabled people equal access to employment, education, and political participation and engaging in society as they would wish.

Michael Seifu

Michael is a committed disability activist and adheres to the social and human rights models of disability. In addition to advanced educational qualifications including a PhD in Politics from Dublin City University as well as an MSc in Economic Policy Analysis and a BA in Economics, he also possesses post graduate certificates in financial risk analysis and data analytics.
As an avid defender of the rights of disabled people, he has participated in several initiatives and organisations including the South Dublin County Council Disability Advisory Panel, the Independent Living Movement of Ireland, and the South Dublin Disability Platform. It is his wish that disability policy and practice in Ireland factors in the issues of intersectionality as much as possible.

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