Jul 12, 2023

Trinity Senator Dr Tom Clonan Introduces Bill to Guarantee Disability Supports

The bill will progress to the Committee Stage following its uncontested passage through the Seanad last night.

Clara RocheEditor

Independent Trinity Senator Dr Tom Clonan has introduced a bill to make it legally obligatory for the state and the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide disability supports deemed necessary in assessments of need. 

The bill, which was supported by all Independent Senators including former Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President Lynn Ruane, would amend the Disability Act of 2005 and the Equal Status Act of 2000. Currently, the state and the HSE are legally mandated to provide assessments of need to disabled citizens, and the bill would extend the required provisions to guarantee citizens the legal right to access therapies. 

The bill passed uncontested despite a proposed government amendment calling for the Bill to be read a second time later in the year. In response to the amendment, Clonan appealed to the government, saying: “You know in your heart of hearts the purpose of that amendment. It is simply to kill the bill.” The vote on the amendment did not occur as no tellers were appointed, and the bill was passed. 


Examples of interventions deemed necessary at the assessment stage might include “access to personal assistance, access to physio, speech, occupational therapy, and supports that our disabled citizens need to live independent and meaningful lives”, Clonan explained on Twitter. 

Speaking to The University Times in February 2022, Clonan expressed his belief that it is “life-limiting” to have a disability in Ireland: “It is the worst country in the European Union to have a disability on every measure: socialisation, poverty, homelessness, sub-optimal medical outcomes.” At present, Ireland is the only country in the European Union without a legal requirement to provide the supports outlined in an assessment of need or equivalent evaluation. 

Clonan’s son Eoghan was diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular disease as a child and uses a wheelchair as a result, sparking the Senator’s interest in disability activism. 

Clonan was elected to the Seanad on his third attempt in March 2022, beating Maureen Gaffney on the sixteenth count.

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