Reverend Margaret Burrow’s Tynwald Day petition to get disabled access provided for her church in St John has been rejected.
However, Rev. Burrow said that she has since been working with Peel and Glenfaba MHK Kate Lord-Brennan, who has approached the Department of Infrastructure to seek access to be installed at the Church of St John the Baptist, which plays a central role in the Tynwald Day proceedings.
Rev. Burrow said that she did not think it acceptable that it took four men to help the chair of Onchan Commissioners (Kathryn Williams), who is in a wheelchair, into the church on Tynwald Day by setting up a mobile ramp.
Petitions are often rejected for technical reasons or because of their wording.
Rev Burrow’s petition was deemed to be out of order because ‘it relates to a case which could be adjudicated upon by a tribunal’.
The Tynwald Standing Orders Committee further explained its decision: ‘We recognise that there is an exemption in the Equality Act 2017 for the exercise of a function of Tynwald, but we do not believe that this would preclude the petitioner from bringing the subject matter of her petition before the Equality and Employment Tribunal’.The petition was supported by 92 signatures, but the committee only counted 73 of these as being provided with a full address.
Rev. Burrow explained that while the government seemed interested in putting in some permanent form of ramp for Tynwald Day services, this would be at the west (front) door.
However, the lack of access proves an issue all year round for many of her elderly parishioners, with the west door not being routinely opened because ‘the whole of the church drops about ten degrees very quickly’.
She said that ‘most’ of her parishioners have issues with mobility at the entrance, but added: ‘When I’ve had weddings, quite often there are grandparents or great-grandparents who attend, and some of them are very elderly and some are in wheelchairs.
‘The other case I had was of a quadriplegic who was to be best man for his brother’s wedding.
Rev. Burrow said she also felt the lack of access was giving a negative impression in terms of tourism, considering the church is such a prominent one in the island.
She explained: ‘Coach drivers come to the church with coach parties.
‘And some people, by the very nature of coach tours, tend to be quite elderly and not mobile.
‘And by the time they’ve walked from the coach outside the Culture Vannin building, and climbed up the path from the lychgate, they are absolutely exhausted and can’t manage the steps to get into the church.
She continued: ‘And these are tourists who when they get into the church,
a guide sits them down and tells them the story not only of the church, but of the Isle of Man: about who the MHKs were, and the sittings of Tynwald and all that.
‘So there are people who are coming from across, who we open the church up for – the government take no responsibility for that and yet they still want to attract people to visit the church’.