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Chch Tetraplegic Aims For Seat In Parliament

Eamon Daly
Labour list candidate

Christchurch Tetraplegic Aims For Seat In Parliament

Eamon Daly, a 33 year old academic and researcher, hopes to make history at this year’s election by becoming New Zealand’s first tetraplegic MP. And, at number 53 on the recently announced Labour Party list, he has a definite chance of doing so.

Mr. Daly, who has been in a wheelchair since the age of 16 due to a trampoline accident, is no stranger to politics, having been a constituency candidate for the Labour Party during the 1996 election campaign.

After the 1996 election he spent three years in postgraduate research as a Fulbright Scholar in the United States, before returning to New Zealand to spearhead efforts to create a voice for people with disabilities within the Labour Party. Those efforts bore fruit in April last year with the establishment of the nation-wide Kirk Branch of the Labour Party, of which Mr. Daly is Chair.

“The Kirk Branch is the first disability branch of any political party in New Zealand, and is just the first step in gaining greater recognition for people with disabilities within the Labour Party”, said Mr. Daly. “I expect that people with disabilities will soon have Sector Council status within the Labour Party”. A Sector Council is a structure within the Labour Party which enables a community of interest to contribute in a formal way to policy development and the day to day running of the Party.

As a Labour list candidate, Eamon Daly will not only be campaigning strongly for the party votes of over 700 000 New Zealanders with disabilities, but also for the votes of their friends, families, colleagues, and partners. “I plan to speak at a number of meetings in the main centres during the course of the campaign, giving examples of Labour’s many achievements in Government for people with disabilities. Specifically, these include the work of Ruth Dyson as Minister for Disability Issues and the release of the landmark New Zealand Disability Strategy”, Mr. Daly said.

Although disability issues are obviously very important for Mr. Daly, he is quick to point out that he is passionate about other issues as well. “My academic background and research expertise centre on technical and ethical aspects of information privacy in a society increasingly mediated by information and communication technologies (ICT). I want to ensure that the undoubtedly positive effects of ICT are not sullied by overly intrusive uses of personal information”, Mr. Daly said. “In this emerging information society, personal autonomy and human dignity are even more important”, he said. “Ultimately, I want to contribute to a society where all people, regardless of circumstance, have the real opportunity to live full and vital lives”, he said.

People with disabilities tend to vote in significantly fewer numbers compared with their non-disabled counterparts. Factors contributing to this lower turn out are major difficulties in accessing polling booths and campaign oriented information, as well as an underlying belief that politicians will change nothing for the better for people with disabilities. But Mr. Daly says that there is real cause for optimism in the disability community given the seriousness with which disability issues are being treated by the Labour Party in Government. “People with disabilities constitute 20% of the population, and, for issues on which we agree, our collective voice can make a real difference”, Mr. Daly said. “What is most important, however, is that people with disabilities must ensure that they are enrolled and that they vote. Recent events in other countries have shown just how important that right to vote is”, he said.

Ends

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