Government to begin ratifying UN convention on disability rights

Finian McGrath says he insisted on ratification being priority for the Government

Finian McGrath: “The convention offers us an opportunity to reassess our attitudes to people with disabilities, and to place a renewed focus on their place in society”

Finian McGrath: “The convention offers us an opportunity to reassess our attitudes to people with disabilities, and to place a renewed focus on their place in society”

 

Ireland’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will allow for a reassessment of the place within society of those with disabilities, the Dáil was told.

Finian McGrath, Minister of State with responsibility for disability issues, made the comments as the Dáil debated a motion that will lead to the ratification of the convention.

The Government will now begin the formal process of ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The State will be the last member of the EU to do so despite having signed the framework in 2007.

Mr McGrath first promised the convention would be ratified “within six months” in May 2016, but has since faced legal obstacles that had to be overcome before the State was ready to stand over the framework’s provisions.

Speaking during a Dáil debate on Wednesday t night, the Dublin Bay North TD said the convention would “involve a charge upon public funds, and I am, therefore, asking the House for its approval”.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney will sign the “necessary instrument of ratification” with the UN, and the convention will officially take effect 30 days afterwards, he said.

Hugely significant

“The convention offers us an opportunity to reassess our attitudes to people with disabilities, and to place a renewed focus on their place in society, to rebalance the right of people with disabilities to make decisions for themselves, rather than have decisions made for them,” Mr McGrath said.

The Centre for Independent Living welcomed the move, with board member Michelle Gaynor saying it was “hugely significant”.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted by the UN in 2006, has eight guiding principles: respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons; non-discrimination; full and effective participation and inclusion in society; respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity; equality of opportunity; accessibility; equality between men and women, and respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr McGrath said he insisted on the ratification of the convention being a priority for the Government.

Legal disagreement

In July last year Mr McGrath said legal disagreement over whether families should be allowed to leave disabled relatives in institutions was one of the key factors delaying ratification of the convention.

He said there was a “clash of rights” between those of families who wanted to place disabled loved ones in an institutional setting and the rights of disabled people who did not want to be there, which needed to be resolved legally. He said he agreed with disability campaigners who described this placing of relatives in institutions as akin to “kidnapping” or being “dumped” out of society.