DCA Warriors Online Support Group
Aisling Byrne and Margaret Fox Lennon have been advocating for the rights of disabled children and their caretakers for more than a decade. Their online support group DCA Warriors has almost 37,000 members and is a place for people to come together and discuss the unique challenges of disability. The group aims to improve the quality of life of families affected by disability by providing support, information, promoting equality and inclusion, as well as raising awareness in the greater community by being a voice for its members
They are representative of many varied and complicated conditions and disabilities and provide practical support for those reliant on Disability Allowance and Carers’ Allowance and to those who are struggling with special education issues.
Without any funding, Aisling and Margaret are the voice of the Warriors with larger campaigns and to larger institutions. They have spoken in the Oireachtas multiple times and in 2018 they collaborated with the Psychological Society of Ireland on the revision of clinical guidelines for Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, so as to best include lived experiences of ASD. They even helped a member win an important court case that overturned unlawful assessments of need for children with disabilities.
“Through Aisling and Margaret’s dedication and support, they have created a safe and inclusive environment for families to open up and gain the advice and support they need,” notes their nominator, “They go above and beyond to make sure each family feels empowered and valued, providing them with supports and resources they need.”
Mullingar 4 All, Amnesty International, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, ESN Ireland, Westmeath Winter Pride, and Queer Library Alliance
Over the past 3 years, Christine O’Mahony has been a leading voice in advocating for the marginalised, underserved, and invisible members of society. Her work spans both in person and online activism. Her organization Mullingar 4 All aims to discredit fascist and hateful media. By breaking down the lies and changing the narrative about refugees and queer people, she also inspires people to educate themselves about diversity and to challenge assumptions about others that are so prevalent today.
Christine is a passionate advocate for ending homophobic harm that still lingers even in the face of progress. As a chairperson for the Anti Conversion Therapy Coalition, she works to educate and legislate against this physically, emotionally, and psychologically damaging practice. She also advocates strongly for the end of bisexual erasure to make sure that bisexuality in Ireland is visible, respected and accepted.
Important to her activism is an understanding of how systems of hatred and power interlock. She is outspoken in the face of racism in higher education, transphobia in media, and uses her position to advocate for the colonized. Her campaigns have attracted the attention of many, including the institutions she has challenged, some of whom have invited her to meet with them to help them improve.
Wicklow Pride Festival, Arklow LGBTQ+ Social Drop in Group, and The APIC Centre
Dave Thomas has been volunteering all his life, becoming a prominent figure in disability and LGBTQ+ activism in the 1980s. He co-founded and was the chairperson for the first decade of the Wicklow Pride Festival. Through this work, he also was pivotal in getting the very first Rainbow Crossing in Ireland in Arklow, and this has expanded now to recent approval of permanent pride crossings across Wicklow.
Dave’s publicly visible advocacy for queer people in Wicklow inspired many people to attend Pride events over the years where they were wanted, safe, and acknowledged, often for the very first time. His social drop-in group for LGBTQ+ people in Arklow was the first ever in the region and in more recent times, he has campaigned for queer materials to be accessible in local libraries, and for public facilities to fly Pride and Trans flags every year. His voice is heard across Wicklow so that queer youth never feel the isolation and lack of resources they once did.
His advocacy extends intersectionally as well. Dave co-founded the first-ever national arts and disability center in Ireland called the APIC Centre located in Dublin. Its visitors over the years include notable individuals like President Mary Robinson and American Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith. When not actively volunteering, Dave is also a filmmaker and many of his works aim to highlight and educate about the challenges of disabled people in Ireland.
“Dave’s constant campaigning, his willingness to be a voice for those that feel they had not got one, has literally saved lives and has made many feel they can be their true self,” writes his nominator, “His impact is immeasurable, and it will last forever.”