DFI National Conference 2014 Citizen Engagement – Local Government by Local People

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Thursday, 3 April 2014

10am – 4pm; Dublin Castle, Dame Street, Dublin 2.

The Conference will be opened by Phil Hogan TD, Minister for the Environment Community and Local Government.

Why this Conference at this time?

The local government elections will take place on the 23 May 2014.   Local people will elect Councillors to represent them in local government over the next five years.

This election is different to all previous local elections.  Significant reform has taken place to transform local government, with greater emphasis on enhancing decision-making power at a local level.  Now more than ever, these structures and this election are of relevance to people in the local community.  After the election, local government will be responsible for decisions on funding and the development and oversight of local community and economic plans. 

In addition to reforms relating to the role of the elected representatives, the representation structures for local communities have also been reformed.  This offers the opportunity for stronger community representation, and is part of the process built into the overall reform of local government to facilitate stronger citizen engagement.

At its most positive, local government reform could create opportunities for local people with disabilities and others to not only become more aware and informed of local decisions, but to become active participants in the decision-making which will affect their lives in their own communities. However, in addition, there will also be a number of challenges which Councillors, Local Authorities and communities will need to identify and overcome together. 

Conference objectives

This conference will explore people with disabilities’ engagement as citizens in their local community.  Even though the focus is on the experience of people with disabilities, the conference will also be relevant to other groups living in communities, such as older people, members of the travelling community, migrant communities, women, children and families. 

Questions addressed in the conference will include:

  • What is the role of local decision-makers and local government in facilitating the engagement of people with disabilities and other groups living in the community?
  • How do people with disabilities as well as other stakeholders in the community become actively engaged at local level?
  • How can local representative structures be best utilised to facilitate that engagement?

Speakers will present positive examples of citizen engagement in Ireland, and outline the positive outcomes resulting from that engagement and the challenges experienced along the way.  The Scottish experience of local government reform, community representation and people with disabilities’ engagement will be presented.  The example of Scotland is informative, as their experience of community representation in local government structures offers insights to the challenges we might avoid in Ireland and helps us to identify some of the positive opportunities which new reforms could offer.  Discussion groups will focus on the ways in which local people with disabilities, as well as other groups in the community, can actively engage in the new local government process.  The role of statutory agencies, local representatives, and the Community and Voluntary sector in re-shaping their own communities in the context of local government reform and citizen engagement will also be explored.

A report from the Conference will be made available as a consultation document to the Minister for the Environment, Community, and Local Government to inform the work of the Department in implementing the recommendations arising from the Working Group Report on Citizen Engagement.

Who should attend this Conference?

  • DFI members
  • People with disabilities
  • Disability sector
  • Community and Voluntary Sector
  • Community and Voluntary Fora
  • Local candidates
  • Political Party representatives
  • Statutory agencies
  • Local Government officials
  • Local Government representative bodies
  • Interested individuals

Registration details and fees

  • Fee: €60. [€40 for DFI Member Organisations.  A €20 concessionary rate for the unemployed, or those in receipt of qualifying allowance and/or benefit is available on request]
  • Registration Process: Click here for registration form and payment options.
  • Please make a note of any particular needs or accessibility requirement you may have when registering.
  • For more information, contact Cathy McGrath on 086 384 7440 or email events@disability-federation.ie


10.00     Registration with Tea and Coffee.

10.10     Morning Chairpersons Address, Brian Merriman, Head of Legal Services and Communications with the Equality Authority.

10.15     Welcome.  John Dolan, Chief Eexcutive Officer, Disability Federation of Ireland

10.30     Opening Address.  Phil Hogan, TD, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government

10.45     Setting the context: identifying opportunities from the report of the Working Group on Citizen Engagement with Local Government.  Fr. Seán Healy, Director of Social Justice Ireland, 

11.05     Tea and Coffee

11.20     Experiences of Citizens Engagement for People with Disabilities

                The Active Community: Living Local Engagement. Maureen Browne and Deborah Hickey, Step Forward Disability Group, Hospital Family Resource Centre (FRC), Co. Limerick, The Active Community: Living Local Engagement

                Input on the challenge of ensuring representation at Local and EU Level.  Killian Forde, Chief Executive Officer of Integration Centre

12.00     Questions and Answers   

12.20     Discussion Sessions: Finding the Solutions.

13.00     Lunch

14.00     Afternoon Chairpersons Address: Katherine Zappone, Independent Senator 

14.15     Learning from the Scottish Experience of Local Government Reform: The Difficulty of Ensuring Citizen Engagement.

               Liz McEntee, Head of External Relations at Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector (GCVS), and Annie Gunner Logan, Director of Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS)

               Both speakers will address some of the challenges the sectors have faced in Scotland and will highlight the opportunities which arise for representation and citizen engagement in Ireland at the outset of reforms.

14.45  Open Forum.

15.30  Closing Comments: Disability Federation of Ireland

15.45  Close of Conference.

The Delegate and Candidate Experience of Participation

Open spaces: What are the Open Spaces offered today?

For delegates attending the conference we want to offer an overall idea of how to approach the opportunities the conference offers.  For candidates in particular, all opportunities need to be recognised.  The open spaces allow you to attend the conference as a listener and a learner.  Citizen engagement is about knowing how to include people with differing and diverse abilities and challenges.

Registration, Coffee and Lunch.

As you register, look around you and familiarise yourself with other delegates, election candidates, services providers, people with disabilities, others.  There is an opportunity to share pleasantries and your hopes for the day. Lunch time too offers opportunities to share experiences, talk to speakers and make yourself known to others.

At Your Table.

Introduce yourself and get to know one another.  This will be your discussion group for the conference so a good rapport will yield better discussion and learning.

Questions and Answers.

Delegates can clarify, ask particular questions and inform themselves about issues which came up, this is an opportunity to clarify any point you did not fully understand or hear.  There will be a chance to hear other questions that you did not think of but to which you would like the answer.

Discussion Sessions: Finding the Solutions.

This is the place for real interaction and engagement – please use it as fully as you can.  In the case studies, try to name the issues, approach the case study with a problem solving approach.  If you can relate it to legislation and national policy, so much the better, but it’s not an absolute requirement.  Candidates, please listen and learn.  People with disabilities, please hear one another and hear the challenges that candidates experience.  Service providers, gather all the information you can to ensure that you can support your member to engage actively and positively.  And, finally, others, listen for your own reasons - education, interest, caring - but also try to empathise with the others at your table in order to increase the learning experience.  Make every effort to reach a result through your discussion and perhaps even negotiation

Open Forum.

Having received more information and recognising the experience of Scotland, let us consider how Local Government Reform can meet the needs of all citizens. Actively including all members of society in the decisions that affect them, will ensure a positive Citizen Engagement experience. As the conference winds towards a close reflect on what you have learned and what remains unclear or undiscovered. Use this opportunity to make a comment or a statement, to question or explain a point of view or to listen to others’ opinions and conclusions from their discussion.

Conference Speakers

Brian Merriman, Head of Legal Services and Communications with the Equality Authority

Picture of Brian Merriman

Head of Legal Services and Communications with the Equality Authority, Brian holds a Masters degree in Equality Studies from University College Dublin (UCD) and qualified as a professional journalist.  Brian has been with the Equality Authority since its inception and was previously the Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the Employment Equality Agency.  Brian has previously worked with the Combat Poverty Agency and has acted as Press Officer for a range of Government departments.


John Dolan, Chief Executive of the Disability Federation of Ireland

Picture of John Dolan

Chief Executive of the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) since 2000, John previously had a long association, back to 1992, as a member of the Board of DFI and is a former Chairperson of the organisation.   Prior to that, he worked for 20 years with the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) and, during that time, gained a comprehensive understanding of issues across the sector.  DFI, with a membership of over 120 voluntary disability organisations, has been active in the development of the National Disability Strategy, but equally in developing governance, management capacity and collaborative working to increase organisational capacity across the voluntary disability sector.  John is a member of the boards of the Higher Education Authority and the European Association of Service Providers for People with Disabilities, and he is on the Membership and Credentials Committee of the European Disability Forum.  John is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.


Phil Hogan, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government 

Picture of Minister Phil Hogan T.D.

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD was first elected to the Dáil in 1989 and has been successfully elected in all subsequent elections.  He was the Fine Gael Party’s Spokesman for Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the 30th Dáil.  He was also Fine Gael’s National Director of Elections in the 2011 Election.  Minister Hogan served as Minister for State in the Department of Finance in the last Fine Gael Government.  Within Fine Gael, he has held a vast array of positions, including Parliamentary Party Chairman, Director of Organisation, and Enterprise Spokesman, as well as Consumer Affairs, Regional Affairs and Food Industry positions.  Minister Hogan served as a Senator from 1987 to 1989.  He is a graduate of University College Cork (BA, HDipEd).


Fr. Seán Healy, Director of Social Justice Ireland

Picture Father Seán Healy

Seán Healy is director of Social Justice Ireland. He is a native of Cork and, for more than 25 years, he has been active on issues of socio-economic policy in Ireland.  Before that, he worked for more than ten years in Africa.  He has been a member of the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) for more than a decade.  He has worked on many government task forces dealing with a wide range of social and economic policy issues, most recently as Chair of the Working Group on Citizen Engagement.  He has written and edited more than 30 books on public policy.


Maureen Browne, Step Forward Disability Group, Hospital Family Resource Centre (FRC), County Limerick

Picture of Maureen Browne

Maureen Browne is a 62 year old woman with an acquired disability.  Having acquired her disability approximately 26 years ago she found life very difficult.  Her vision is impaired.  She has three sons all married and  ten grandchildren, which keeps her busy.  She is active in her community and does a lot of fundraising, doing bag packing, half-marathons, and selling cards and calendars for the guide dogs for the blind.  Maureen’s hobbies are hill-walking and dancing.  Maureen is a member of the Step Forward group for six years and has contributed to many of the Community awareness raising activities of the group.


Deborah Hickey, Step Forward Disability Group, Hospital Family Resource Centre (FRC), County Limerick

Picture of Deborah Hickey

Deborah Hickey lives in Kilmallock, County Limerick and acquired her disability six years ago when she was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.  Having acquired a disability she has had to re-organise her life to accommodate the constraints that this necessitates.  Previously, Deborah worked with Microsoft for a number of years and was part of the X-box supply group up until 2012.  Deborah has been a member of the Step forward group for 18 months and finds the focus of the group towards knowledge and awareness raising very rewarding.  Deborah has enjoyed participating in many of the group’s activities, especially a Flash Mob event in 2013 to raise awareness of the need to make learning more inclusive. 


Katherine Zappone, Independent Senator

Picture of Senator Katherine Zappone

Independent Senator, appointed by an Taoiseach, she is one of Ireland’s foremost thinkers and legislators on equality issues, and the author of legislation on topics as diverse as Seanad reform and Gender Recognition.  She was formerly a Commissioner with the Irish Human Rights Commission (2002-2012) and currently serves on the Irish Parliamentary delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) where she is a member of the Committee on Equality and Non-discrimination of PACE.  Senator Zappone is Rapporteur to the Committee on Improving Cooperation between National Human Rights Institutions and Parliaments.  She is also a member of the Irish Parliamentary Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality.  She took a leading role in the pioneering Irish Senate hearings on the rights of older people which published a landmark report in March 2012 (‘Report on the Rights of Older People’).  She holds a PhD from Boston College and an MBA from the Smurfit Business School at UCD.  She was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from UCD School of Law.  She is a founder of an Cosán, a leading community education organisation in Tallaght West, and has extensive experience encouraging citizen participation in local development.


Killian Forde , Chief Executive Officer  with The Integration Centre

Chief Executive Officer of The Integration Centre since March 2011, Killian has more than fifteen years experience in the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) sector both in Ireland and abroad having worked for NGOs and international bodies such as the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  Killian was the Co-ordinator of TravAct, a Traveller advocacy and training organisation, from 2002 until his appointment to The Integration Centre.  Elected first in 2004, Killian was a Dublin City Councillor for seven years, and the Chairperson of the Finance Committee for his second term.  In addition Killian is an award-winning travel writer.  He was educated in Kimmage Manor Developments Studies Centre, the Royal College of Surgeons and Dublin City University (DCU) where he graduated with an Masters in Business Administration (MBA).


Annie Gunner Logan, Director of the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland

Picture of Annie Gunner Logan

Annie is the Director of the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS),  the national membership body for voluntary and not-for-profit care providers.  In that capacity, she serves on a number of Scottish Government advisory and reference groups relating to health and social care. In 2013 she was appointed by the Deputy First Minister to serve on the Expert Working Group on Welfare in an Independent Scotland, and in 2014 became a Non-Executive Director of the Scottish Government. Annie has served as a non-executive member on a range of public and voluntary sector boards, including the UK drug and alcohol treatment charity, Phoenix Futures, where she was Vice Chair, and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR). Annie has a Masters Degree in Social and Public Policy from the University of Edinburgh.

Liz McEntee, Head of External Relations with the Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector

Picture of Liz McEntee

Liz is Head of External Relations with Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector, the main membership development agency for the voluntary sector in Glasgow.  Liz has worked extensively in the voluntary and public sectors over the last 25 years at both national and local level.  In recent years, she has worked on the development of a voluntary sector Compact for Glasgow, as well as supporting voluntary sector engagement with community planning in the city.  She is currently heavily involved in the public service reform agenda in Glasgow, ensuring voluntary sector input to the Scottish Government’s Reshaping Care for Older People and Early Years agendas, as well as working with GCVS members to respond to the UK Government’s Welfare Reform programme, which is having a devastating effect on Glasgow’s most vulnerable people.  Liz sits on the boards of the Economic Development Association for Scotland (EDAS) and One Parent Families Scotland, and holds a Masters Degree (with distinction) in Local Economic Development from the University of Glasgow. 


Venue Details


Dublin Castle Conference Centre

Dublin Castle

Dublin 2

Directions, Entry points and Parking Facilities (see map of venue below / online):

  • Dublin Castle is situated in the very heart of Dublin City, on the south side of the River Liffey, off Dame Street, en route from Trinity College to Christchurch Cathedral.
  • Pedestrian entrance is available through Corke Hill Gate on Castle Street – the side of City Hall, or through the Palace Street Gate off Dame Street (see map below).
  • There is a bike rack available through the Palace Street Gate off Dame Street on the left hand side with another bike rack available at the top of the lower courtyard just right of the archway into the upper courtyard. 
  • Drivers or car passengers with a disability holding a Disabled Person's Parking Permit can use the Ship Street entrance and park in the upper courtyard directly outside the venue. 
  • There are a number of public car parks nearby.  The nearest is that of Parkrite Christchurch Carpark, which is located in Werburgh Street: Tel. 01 454 9001.
  • Dublin Bus routes No.'s 77a, 56a and 49.  For further information on Dublin Bus services see www.dublinbus.ie.
  • Full online location and map is available from: http://www.dublincastle.ie/locationmaps/

   Map of Dublin Castle


Conference Organiser

The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) represents the interests and the expectations of people with disabilities to be fully included in Irish society.  It comprises organisations that represent and support people with disabilities and disabling conditions.  
The vision of DFI is that Irish society is fully inclusive of people with disabilities and disabling conditions so that they can exercise their full civil, economic, social and human rights and that they are enabled to reach their full potential in life.  DFI’s mission is to act as an advocate for the full and equal inclusion of people with disabilities and disabling conditions in all aspects of their lives.  DFI works on the basis that disability is a societal issue and so works with Government, and across the social and economic strands and interests of society.
For further information go to www.disability-federation.ie

Disability Federation of Ireland, Fumbally Court, Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8
Tel: 01-4547978, Fax: 01-4547981
Email: info@disability-federation.ie   Web: www.disability-federation.ie

Union of Voluntary Organisations of People with Disabilities trading as The Disability Federation of Ireland is a company limited by guarantee not having share capital, registered in Dublin. Registered No. 140948, CHY No 6177

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