UN disability rights convention ‘to be ratified by Christmas’
Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath says further delays unjustifiable
Finian McGrath: “I want to ensure that every adult with intellectual disability and physical disability will have rights to services in the state and the right to equality of treatment.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
The State will ratify the long- delayed United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the end of the year, Independent Alliance Minister Finian McGrath has said.
Ireland signed the convention in 2007, and further delays in incorporating it into law could not be justified, said Mr McGrath, the Minister of State with special responsibility for Disability Issues
“I want the convention ratified by Christmas,” he said. “I want to ensure that every adult with intellectual disability and physical disability will have rights to services in the state and the right to equality of treatment.”
The convention obliges states that are a party to it to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities and to promote respect for their inherent dignity”.
The convention was signed nine years ago with the intention of ratifying it once enabling legislation had been enacted. The key law was the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act, which was enacted last year by Mr McGrath’s predecessor, Kathleen Lynch.
Ms Lynch said yesterday she had not wanted to ratify the convention unless the State was in the best possible position to deliver its provisions. “Many countries ratified the convention, and when the UN went back to evaluate their performance, they had done very little to implement it,” she said.
Late last year, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and the former junior minister in her department, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, published a road map setting out how they would deal with the outstanding issues.
One of the biggest issues was how to resolve the question of deprivation of liberty in a nursing homes for a person with, for example, symptoms of dementia. The law has required clarity on the status of a decision that the patient should not be allowed leave for health and safety reasons.
Changes are also required to the Electoral Acts to change the assumption that a person with a mental disability lacks the capacity to perform as a member of the Dáil. Similar changes are being made in the Juries Act to amend the blanket ineligibility of persons with a mental illness.
The convention defines people with disabilities as those who have long-term “physical, mental intellectual or sensory impairment . . . which may hinder their active participation in society on an equal basis with others”.
That would include people who are blind or deaf, who have physical disabilities, and also those with mental illness and intellectual disability.
Mr McGrath has campaigned for disability rights over a long number of years. His daughter has a disability and he is her main carer.