10/02/2007

Equality is more than just a word

I was delighted to learn that an Armagh man has successfully challenged a law that prevented some people with learning disabilities from voting.



The 17th Century law, which was still in use until recently, contained offensive and degrading language.

It said "idiots" could not vote and "lunatics" could only vote in certain circumstances. Trevor Rhodie, who has learning difficulties, said he was very offended by the terminology.

"I took action because I didn't like the phrases they were using. So I decided to write to try to get it changed. I met with MLA's and MPs and wrote to the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and he sent me a letter saying it was a 120 year old law and couldn't be changed because it was common law."

I find it incredible than someone like Tony Blair, a solicitor by trade, would come out with nonsense like that. Imagine saying that common law can't be changed, what utter crap!

Reforming the law now means people with learning disabilities have equal rights to vote.

Mencap supported Mr Rhodie in his fight. Liam Burns from the charity said the change was long overdue.

Mr Burns said "The language was medieval. No-one else would accept being described in that way so why should people with learning disabilities."

Mr Rhodie said he was delighted with his success. "It's important people with learning disabilities have the right to vote and the right to live where they want and to be treated the same as everyone else as first class citizens," he said.

It's a small step but an important one towards full equality.

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