Blog Post: DRILL through history, beyond the present for the future

Tony O’Reilly

Taking a look at the world today it seems that the equality agenda, has taken a backward step. Brexit and the quest for the leadership of American democracy has been characterised by many as a global manifestation of a backlash against progressive forces that sought to promote equality for all. We are left simply to reflect on the apathy or cacophony of angry voices as a guide in choosing moral leadership to uphold the nobility of human rights and the future of democracy. Gone in an instance is the history of struggle and endurance that must inform and shape progressive forces in our future.  It is in this history that lies our desire to look beyond the dark clouds of our history, from the politics of superficial opposition to the politics of inclusion.


Such progressive forces perhaps, through the lens of rose tinted glasses of a dreamer, were often rooted in the social conscience of the civil rights movements so prevalent it appears in the Europe and United States of the 1960s.  In the idealism of the young Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, my hero of the Russian Revolution of the 1980s and 1990s (not the one of 1917). His policies of glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika  (“restructuring”) gave so much hope for the flowering of human rights…..


When DRILL was first conceived by the four disability organisations involved and funded by the National Lottery, they didn’t imagine it would measure up to advancing the human rights of disabled people as other movements had progressed in the 1960’s. It will be a quiet revolution and one where information and knowledge alone will be mightier than any single street protest that preceded it. As for my heroes, in this wider modern and new revolution, it has to be the people who conceived this ambitious undertaking, despite the global doom and gloom, they have chosen to continue this struggle fighting with all their might for what is right; no matter the odds or the weight of history. My views, your views, our views, do matter. If DRILL says anything, it proclaims precisely that.


Two things are certain. You and me when we work in solidarity with each other:  we become an us. Together we make a difference. Alone, without the other disabled and non- disabled, we our drowned by popularism – which by definition excludes the minority, no matter how reasonable or compassionate our voice. Secondly, by the very nature of DRILL, and indeed our movement we will always challenge popularism born of ignorance, fear and despair.  The struggle for equality and human rights and the desire for knowledge and enlightenment is exactly that.  It is keeping faith in the good, in the struggle for a better tomorrow, bound neither by the past or the present, by a hard or soft Brexit or dare we say any resident in the White House.


This is an edited extract.  Tony’s full blog can be viewed here – June – Tony O’Reilly Blog


Tony O’Reilly is a member of the North West Forum of People with Disabilities and the Northern Ireland DRILL National Advisory Group.  He has been an activist in the human rights movement for over 25 years.  He is a dreamer and a doer.

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