Northern Ireland

Disability rights activist becomes MBE in Windsor Castle ceremony

Michaela Hollywood after being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (Ben Birchall/PA)
Michaela Hollywood after being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (Ben Birchall/PA) Michaela Hollywood after being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (Ben Birchall/PA)

A disability rights activist has called for environmentalism to be more inclusionary after she became an MBE at Windsor Castle.

Michaela Hollywood, who is deputy chief executive of the Pathfinders Neuromuscular Alliance and lives with the genetic condition spinal muscular atrophy, was made an MBE by the Princess Royal on Wednesday.

She told the PA news agency: “I think up until now climate change activism and environmentalism has been very exclusionary.

“But if we don’t include disabled people as part of our conversation, then climate justice will never be achieved. So, I think that will be our next frontier.”

The activist said she had been inspired to take up campaigning after being told she was not allowed to be on the ground floor at a concert when she was 17.

Investitures at Windsor Castle
Investitures at Windsor Castle Michaela Hollywood is made an MBE by the Princess Royal (Jonathan Brady/PA)

She said: “Not being allowed to sit where I wanted for that concert really sparked a tiny flame into a massive fire and I haven’t looked back since.”

Ms Hollywood, who is from Co Down, said she was “very honoured” to become an MBE and that it was “the combination of a large team effort”.

She added that receiving the honour was a “resounding vote of confidence” in the work she was doing.

Ms Hollywood also spoke about the links between mental health and disability.

She said: “My overarching message to people is that being disabled itself doesn’t impact mental health necessarily, but what does is when the structures in society are failing people.

“Inaction has consequences – for disabled people being denied entry or not being able to access a service has a knock-on impact because that denial is due to something we can’t control.”