A fund should be in place to support election candidates with a disability

A fund should be in place to support election candidates with a disability

Graham O’Shea, who is deaf, was a candidate in the Cork South central area at the last local elections. He was seen here handing in his nomination papers to Paul Moynihan, local returning officer at the City Hall. Picture: Eddie O’Hare

CORK man Graham O’Shea is appealing to local public representatives to establish a fund to cover the extra expenses facing election candidates with disabilities.

Mr O’Shea, who is deaf, is hoping to emulate the current UK model known as the EnAble Fund for Elected Office.

This fund covers the additional financial costs arising from a disability, such as sign language interpretation, personal assistance costs or transport, that could prevent someone from seeking elected office.

It has proven to be transformative for many candidates in Britain, including Grant Ferguson, a Deaf BSL user, who last month won 46% of the vote and secured a seat as a SNP councillor for East Kilbride in Edinburgh.

Back in May, Mr O’Shea himself ran as a non-party candidate in the Cork City South Central electoral area but was unsuccessful in his attempts.

Speaking to The Echo, Graham believes that a lack of available resources to him was a contributing factor in such a poor yield of voter support.

“In total, I got 122 votes in the Cork South Central local elections. “On the day of the count, many councillors and TDs approached me enquiring how my campaign had gone.

“I had to be honest with them: distributing election material was fine, but I wasn’t able to canvas door to door because I couldn’t cover interpretation costs.”

He continued: “I didn’t want to disrespect interpreters by expecting them to work for nothing. But I believe that I was at a disadvantage because I couldn’t get to know voters’ concerns or needs, or explain my policies in-depth to them.”

Graham believes that, by not mirroring the system in the UK, prospective councillors are incapable of delivering the best campaign strategy possible.

“In Ireland, there has never been a Deaf public representative,’’ Graham said.

“It feels as if we are being held back by the system currently in place.”

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