Disabled Alliance Party candidate hopes to contribute “unique perspective” to local politics 2023

An Alliance Party candidate in the next municipal elections said including disabled people in politics is crucial to ensuring policies meet their needs.
Padraic Farrell (26), one of four Alliance candidates in Magherafelt, Mid Ulster, believes his lived experience with spina bifida and hydrocephalus will give him a unique perspective on local politics.

“I wanted more disability representation in politics, something that has been lacking,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“I have spina bifida and hydrocephalus and use a wheelchair full-time. As a candidate, I also have a particular rural perspective.”

Mr. Farrell chairs the party’s Ability Committee, which shapes Alliance disability policy. He thinks Northern Ireland is making modest progress.

Padraic Farrell substantially influenced the party’s disability policies.

“Northern Ireland is very slowly increasing its accessibility, with councils getting accessible changing facilities and toilets with larger changing beds for those that need them,” he said.

Mid Ulster is behind Belfast and larger cities. Magherafelt public bathrooms lack accessible changing facilities.

“Having a disability and knowing where parks and changing rooms are missing, I could have a voice to get it implemented for people who need it.

“Able-bodied people may make a small mistake because they don’t think about it.”

Disabled candidates also face problems at political meeting venues.

UUP MLA Andy Allen campaigned for a Stormont ramp in 2016.

The Magherafelt candidate said role models like Mr Allen are vital.

Mr. Farrell said legislation can reflect a lack of disabled politicians.

To let people speak, buildings must be accessible.

Mid Ulster accessibility is my main goal. He also thanked his Mid Ulster teammates for helping with doorsteps.

I see canvassing differently. Other candidates wouldn’t have those obstacles.”

Mr. Farrell said Claire Hackett’s Assembly election success last year encouraged the Alliance, which has never elected a councillor in Mid Ulster.

Ms Hackett received 2,138 votes, up 2.1% from the previous election, and Padraic said the doorstep reception was excellent.

“Now we have candidates, we are in a better position to get a councillor in Mid Ulster, especially with more people born post-Good Friday Agreement starting to vote,” he said.

I’m optimistic we’ll get a seat. No complaints. Many say the town needs a younger, more progressive voice instead of the status quo.”

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