FINE Gael Senator Martin Conway has been appointed to a panel within the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to promote political participation of people with disabilities.
Senator Conway was officially added to the advisory panel of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) after impressing the panel with his commitment in encouraging people with disabilities to become involved in politics.
Speaking to The Clare Champion, Senator Conway recalled he applied to be appointed to the OSCE, which he described as an expert umbrella group to promote democracy for people with disabilities in 95 countries.
Following a three-hour interview by a five-person interview panel, the Fine Gael Senator wasn’t expecting to be successful given the huge interest.
“There was massive interest in the panel. I was shortlisted down to a group of 60 out of thousands of applicants, and I was informed on Tuesday I was successful. Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson has been on this body, which advises on human rights.
“The OSCE will look at policies that promote the participation of people with disabilities in politics. I am the only serving member of the Oireachtas to be appointed on this panel.”
Senator Conway, who is the first visually impaired member of the Oireachtas, said he is honoured to become a member of this panel for a four-year term.
“As a life-long campaigner for equal opportunities and rights for those with disabilities, I am honoured to have been appointed to the ODIHR Advisory Panel on the Political Participation of Persons with Disabilities for a term of four years.
“My role will involve providing advice, guidance and recommendations to ODIHR, and through ODIHR to the OSCE participating States, on matters related to the political participation of persons with disabilities.
“The work includes the implementation of relevant OSCE commitments; legislation, policies and state practices; contributing to material related to the international framework for political participation of persons with disabilities; and educational and capacity building efforts.
“It is so important to me that all people with disabilities are given the chance to participate in political and public life to ensure there is full representation when it comes to policy making and the enacting of laws.”
Senator Conway, Fine Gael’s Seanad Government Spokesperson on Justice and Equality, was first elected to Clare County Council in 2004 and subsequently to the Seanad in 2011.
He is now the longest serving member of the Oireachtas with a disability.
Fine Gael Leader and Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, congratulated Senator Conway on his appointment.
The Tánaiste said: “Sincerest congratulations to Senator Conway on his appointment to the OSCE ODIHR Advisory Panel on the Political Participation of Persons with Disabilities.
“I have known Martin for many years and he is a passionate advocate for the disability community, ensuring their views are represented not just within the Fine Gael party, but also in the Seanad.
“This new role will allow him to pursue his dedicated work on disabilities issues on a global stage, in addition to his work in Ireland. I wish him every success in his new role.”
by Dan Danaher