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Red Line Book Festival

Conversations About Activism and Change

Independent Living Movement Ireland and Thirty Years of Disability Rights

L - R: Selina Bonnie, Peter Kearns, Fiona Brennan
DateMonday October 16th
VenueNorth Clondalkin Library
AdmissionFree - Booking essential
Time 11am

Disabled people are all too familiar with fighting to be included in society, but they also do not face their battle in isolation. We all know that real social change can only be brought about when people work together as a collective. But when we scratch beneath the surface, what does that mean? What are the ingredients of a strong disability movement? Published this year by Martello Press, Conversations about Activism and Change offers a collection of personal insights into the development of the Independent Living Movement in Ireland, to celebrate the organisation’s thirty years in existence.

Too often the lives and experiences of disabled people are portrayed by those deemed qualified to speak on their behalf. This book captures the voices of disabled activists themselves, and through their stories the triumphs and learning achieved through building the Irish disability movement come to the fore. Not only are these stories snapshots of the past, they can also provide a roadmap for disabled activists seeking guidance in continuing their activism journey into the future.

At this event, key activists from ILMI’s history will discuss their stories with host Fiona Brennan. 

Selina Bonnie is an Indian / Irish disabled woman who holds a Master’s Degree in Disability Studies from the University of Leeds and a Professional Diploma in Human Rights and Equality from the IPA / IHREC. She has been an activist, lecturer and trainer in the international disabled people’s movement for more than 25 years. Her particular research interests centre on sexuality, sexual expression and reproductive rights for disabled people. Selina has been published on related topics in various fora including a chapter titled ‘Towards Sexual Citizenship: Dispelling the Myth of Disabled People’s Asexuality’, in the book Sexualities and Irish Society: A Reader. She is currently the Vice Chair of Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI), represents ILMI on the Assisted Human Reproduction Coalition, and is a Regional Ambassador for the NUIG Centre for Disability Law and Policy Re(al) Productive Justice Research project. She is also a busy wife, mother and passionate home chef who works full time for South Dublin County Council as their Disability Liaison, Access and Equality Officer.

Peter Kearns started work with Independent Living Movement Irl. in 2019 as the cross border social inclusion Project Coordinator for ILMI-ONSIDE and ILMI Activist-Mentor. Peter graduated from Trinity College in the late 1980s with an English Honours degree and followed this with an MA in Film & TV Studies at DCU and a Higher Diploma in Adult & Community Education from Maynooth College. He also has higher Dips. in Disability Studies and Arts European Mentoring. Peter lectures at St. Angela's College (NUIG) and has written-up QQ1-Level 8 & 9 Modules promoting a need for a Emancipatory-Advocacy way of thinking & practice for & with disabled people.  

In the mid 1990’s Peter established THE WORKHOUSE, a disability consultancy company involved in equality/mentor/arts training in Ireland, Europe and Asia.  As Development & Policy Worker with Forum of People With Disabilities, Peter worked in New York in early Noughties at the United Nations on developing NGO community development inputs into 2007 UN CRPD.

Peter’s associate residency at the Irish national Abbey Theatre facilitated the development of a disability access policy and promoted a vision for the National Cultural Institutes’ beginning of an ongoing relationship with disabled people as audience, creators and producers. Since leaving the National Theatre, he has produced & directed a series of touring adult cabaret shows with disabled performers. Critically recognised drama work has included Cork Year of Culture establishment of Forum Theatre groups at Cork Cheshire Homes,  Firestation Artists Studio disability arts website, Dundalk Disability Forum Theatre and Dublin/Sligo/Galway Disability & Forum Theatre groups. Recently Peter co-produced, Disability-Dramaturge & acted in the critically acclaimed one-of-five 2022 best shows NO MAGIC PILL at Galway and Dublin Theatre Festival.

In terms of linking social model led disability equality with effective practice on the ground, Peter moved from Forum PwD to design and deliver nationwide mainstream programmes such as Making-Choices and Practical Self-Advocacy with Community Support Consultant with Disability Equality Specialist Support Agency (DESSA). 

Peter is also a writer/dramatist, documentary & film maker. Peter also enjoys extreme trekking (Everest Basecamp 2019) and has two 'adult' children Deirbhile & Oisin and lives in Co. Leitrim, Ireland.

Fiona Brennan is an acclaimed Clinical Hypnotherapist with a constantly booked-out private clinic. She is a two-times best-selling author, a mental health expert on Today FM (Ireland) and the Business Post and a TEDx speaker. Fiona regularly delivers talks and workshops on a range of areas from stress and anxiety to building confidence and public speaking to many multinational companies, charities, and other organizations. She also runs therapeutic retreats and events, as well as online webinars and has several online courses available. Fiona has a weekly newsletter that goes out to thousands of subscribers. She is active on Instagram (@the_positive_habit_) where she also does live sessions.