In early October 2016 we lost a pillar within our community, it was with great sadness and a heavy heart that we learned of Martin’s passing.
Martin was a disability activist and pioneer of the Independent Living (IL) movement in Ireland. Martin had the lived experience of disability and had spent the last 50 years working to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Martin had the experience of institutionalised living in his early years, before moving into his own home.
Martin was at the centre of influencing the move away from institutionalised living in Ireland. After time spent travelling in America, Martin returned to Ireland with the mission of spreading the word about Independent Living. He was involved in establishing the Centre of Independent Living (CIL) in Ireland, which opened in March 1992 and specifically targeted funding for Personal Assistant (PA) services. There are over twenty CILs in the country today.
Martin was the Co-Director of the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL), which represents the disability movement on human rights and social inclusion, until January 2015. ENIL is based on solidarity, peer support, deinstitutionalisation, democracy, self-representation, a cross disability approach and self-determination.
Martin’s main aim was to support people with disabilities to become empowered to lead independent lives. He believed PA services fulfill a vital role in enabling Independent Living, in that they are a facilitate individual choice. He emphasised how pivotal PA services are to his life, along with so many other people with disabilities. Martin co-founded Áiseanna Tacaíochta (ÁT) in 2010 to continue the work of empowering people with disabilities to lead independent lives.
Martin also worked as a Support Officer for the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI). He was the Director of Disability Options, a company which provides individual training and support to people with disabilities on Independent Living issues. Mart
in was a board member for ÁT and Headway, an organisation supporting people affected by brain injury, and gave over twenty years’ service to the State Board of the Citizens Information Board (CIB), leaving in March 2015.
Michael D Higgins described him as an “indefatigable advocate for human rights”
Extract from Annual Report 2016
“From the hospital in Baldoyle Martin became very involved in the local community. He was instrumental in the founding of Baldoyle United soccer club, and the building of the youth club. He moved out into a flat of his own with a team of assistants. Around this time I started to visit him more regularly. I was impressed by how the younger generation reacted to Martin. To me it was obvious that they saw him as a father figure. He taught and coached them in many skills. “
“I was struck by his sheer energy and tenacity. He had a plan but he realised that to get it implemented sometimes you had to lose a few battles to win the war. “
“Over the years I was involved in the hatching of many plans with him and got to experience firsthand how hard he worked, often taking phone calls at 10.30 at night and constantly checking his emails. I will always be grateful to Martin for giving me the confidence to speak out and for showing me how to engage with politicians. He was one of a kind. “
“During his work Martin never took No for an answer and took the word maybe to mean yes on many occasions”
“Martin never seemed daunted by his physical limitations and I came to admire how much information he kept in his head and how adept he was at making friends and influencing people. Sometimes he ventured off the beaten track with an initiative – telling supporters he would ask for forgiveness rather than permission! “