Conference Theme

The 2023 NDA Conference looked at Article 29 of UNCRPD and 'Guaranteeing the equal participation of disabled people in political and public life in Ireland'.

Issues discussed included accessible voting and the public and political representation of disabled people in Ireland. The event brought together disabled people, public officials and elected representatives to discuss barriers faced by disabled people and proposed solutions. It examined international practices relevant to this theme and presented learning from other countries which could inform potential solutions to address the challenges and barriers faced.

Conference Proceedings

Opening Session

  • Introduction and welcome: Dr Aideen Hartney, Director, National Disability Authority.
  • Welcome Address: Kathryn O’Donoghue, Chairperson, National Disability Authority
  • Opening Address: Anne Rabbitte T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, Department of Health and Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

Session 1: International innovations for accessible voting

Chair: Annette Costello, Member, Disability Stakeholder Group (DSG).

  • Armin Rabitsch, Election Watch EU,
  • Nellika Valder, Deputy Head of the State Electoral Office of Estonia,
  • Cahir Hughes, Head of Electoral Commission Northern Ireland.

Session 2: Accessibility of voting in Ireland

Chair: Christabelle Feeney, Director of Employers for Change, at the Open Doors Initiative

  • Dr Robert Sinnott, Coordinator of Voice of Vision Impairment,
  • Dr Vivian Rath, Disability Equality & Human Rights Advocate,
  • Art O’Leary, Chief Executive, An Coimisiún Toghcháin (The Electoral Commission).

Session 3: Participation in public life

Chair: Siobhán McKenna, Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at the Public Appointments Service (

  • Majella O’Keefe, County Kildare Access Network,
  • Sinéad Friel, Chairperson, National Advisory Council of Down Syndrome Ireland
  • Suzy Byrne, Board Member, Iarnród Éireann.

Session 4: Political participation of disabled people in Ireland

Chair: Senator Dr Tom Clonan, Independent

  • John Dolan, CEO, Disability Federation Ireland (DFI),
  • Dr James Casey, Policy Officer, Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI),
  • Brian Sheehan, CEO, Women for Election
  • Lorraine Lally, Barrister at Law

Session 5: Political representation of disabled people: International context and initiatives

Chair: Noelle O’Connell, CEO, European Movement Ireland.

  • Alejandro Moledo, Deputy Director & Head of Policy, European Disability Forum (EDF),
  • Ethan Young, Access to Elected Office Fund, Inclusion Scotland,
  • Florian Sanden, Policy Coordinator, European Network on Independent Living.

Reflections from elected representatives

Chair: Dr James Casey, Policy Officer, Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI)

  • Ivana Bacik, TD, Labour Party,
  • Pauline Tully, TD, Sinn Féin,
  • Senator Martin Conway, Fine Gael.

This session includes a video message from Roderic O’Gorman, TD, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and the close of the conference by Dr Aideen Hartney, Director, National Disability Authority.