Call for reform of 'Lunacy' Act of 1871


A disability group has called for the reform of a 151-year-old law dealing with those with intellectual and mental health difficulties.

Speaking yesterday on International Day for People with Disabilities, Inclusion Ireland chief executive Paddy Connolly said Ireland’s legislation lagged behind the rest of Europe. “On today, International Day for People with Disabilities, this Government must do the right thing and finally take the word ‘Lunatic’ out of Irish law.”

Inclusion Ireland, an umbrella body that represents people with intellectual disabilities, criticised the Government for failing on its 2011 programme for government promise to reform the 1871 Lunacy Regulations Act.

Affecting those with intellectual disability, serious mental health problems, dementia and acquired brain injury, the body says every week it receives calls from people whose right to make medical, financial, travel and marriage decisions for themselves is impacted by the Act’s “Ward of the Court” provision.

Failure to reform

“While other countries allow for people to be supported to make decisions, Ireland takes all rights away from the person and the court imposes a decision on them,” Mr Connolly said.

Without modernising Ireland’s capacity laws, he said the Government could not ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which it signed up to six years ago. Mr Connolly said though reform was promised in 2008 by the previous government, and again in the 2011 programme for government of the current administration, a Bill had yet to be brought before the Oireachtas. “A ‘Mental Capacity’ Bill is currently on the ‘A’ list of legislation, but it was also on the ‘A’ list for the spring session and yet no Bill was published,” Mr Connolly said. In October, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the Bill was at “an advanced stage of drafting”.