Fine Gael Clare Senator and Seanad Spokesperson on Disability and Equality, Martin Conway, will tomorrow (Saturday) give his account of how he became the first visually impaired member of the Oireachtas, in a new documentary to be broadcast on RTE Radio One.
Martin is the third generation of his family to be born with congenital cataracts. When he was just six months old he was taken to London for a series of ground-breaking eye operations, which left him with 16% vision.
“I was delighted to be given the opportunity by Radio One to tell my story of how I progressed through mainstream school and onto UCD, before entering local politics and managing to get elected to the Seanad as the first visually impaired member of the Oireachtas.
“Life as a visually impaired politician can be tricky; I can’t drive, so I have to rely on public transport and friends and family to get from Clare to Leinster House and to attend constituency events and meetings. I’ve developed a pretty sharp sixth sense, using voices and sounds to recognise people either in Leinster House or in my constituency.
“While my sight difficulties can pose some considerable challenges during the course of my work, I am determined my condition will not impede my determination to ensure disability issues are given prominence on the national agenda.
“Since being elected to the Seanad, I have worked with my Government colleagues to ensure that the equality agenda is in no way compromised due to the challenging economic environment. The Government is committed to the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, with the necessary legislation being progressed. This will represent a significant advancement for people with disabilities all over Ireland.
"I would like to pay tribute to Sarah Blake, who produced the RTE documentary, for her hard work and support over the last number of months.”