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Drama highlights learning disability rights

THE first citizens of Clare and Kilkee, Mayors Tony Mulcahy and Lily Marrinan-Sullivan were on hand for the Clare Inclusive Research Group’s first public interactive drama performance of Leaving Home at Garrihy’s Bar, Moyasta last Thursday afternoon, which was organised by the Brothers of Charity, Kilrush. There was an air of expectation in the community on the eve of the Nell Galvin Festival but all eyes at the packed function room were firmly fixed on the research acting troupe.
Following a forum theatre format, first devised by Brazilian social dramatist Augusto Boal to help landless farmers stand up for their rights, the audience or as Boal termed them, the “engaged onlookers”, are drawn into the drama to suggest ways of solving a problem; in this case the problem of people with a learning disability overcoming over-protective families, officious social workers and the long arm of the law.

Members of the Clare Inclusive Research Group  performing their production of Leaving Home. 	 Photograph by Declan Monaghan

After “spectactors” Teresa O’Dea and Orla MacMahon tried to placate a forbidding potential mother-in-law, played by Kathleen Ryan, Mayor of Clare Tony Mulcahy stepped into the shoes of actor Ger Minogue to tackle strident social worker, Kathleen O’Leary.
“You have a learning disability so you have to fill in forms and have an assessment. You can’t just leave home or the law will be on to you,” he was told.
“Why am I being treated differently from everyone else? I deserve a chance to stand on my own two feet,” Councillor Mulcahy replied, a point that drew rapturous applause from the audience.
“As the father of a learning disabled daughter, I have a passion for some of the issues this drama raises,” he said afterwards. “It’s not always easy for a person with a disability to be taken seriously, even in your own family.”
The group also featured their most recent documentary film, made with Galway film maker Paddy O’Connor, My Life, My Research. The film presents two people with disability, researcher Kathleen O’Leary and autistic poet Larry O’Bryan, talking about the benefits of living independently and featuring footage of the research group in action.
The group are bringing their drama to Sexual Rights and Intellectual Disability, an international conference on relationships for health professionals, legislators, parents and people with disability at the Marino Institute, Dublin as contributors to the ongoing debate around learning disability rights.
The law currently rules that, unless married, it is illegal for a person with a learning disability to engage in a sexual relationship.
For further information on this issue, contact Rob Hopkins on 087 9296640.


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