State criticised for not changing 150-year-old Lunacy Act

Ireland could be only one in EU not ratifying UN convention on rights of people with disabilities


April Fool’s Day is being used to admonish the Government for its continued failure to replace the almost 150-year-old Lunacy Act with promised capacity legislation, by a coalition of over 15 mental health and human rights organisations.

The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill would abolish the wards-of-court system and bring in supported decision-making mechanisms for people with intellectual disability. It was published almost two years ago but has yet to reach committee stage in the Oireachtas.

Dr Eilionóir Flynn, acting director of the centre for disability and law at NUI Galway, said the Government’s continued “foot-dragging” on the issue meant Ireland was likely, by the end of the year, to be the only member of the European Union not to have ratified the United Nations convention on the rights of people with disabilities.

Enactment of the legislation is necessary before Ireland can ratify the convention. Finland and the Netherlands are the only other EU states yet to ratify it but have committed to do so this year.

Tina Leonard, head of advocacy with the Alzheimer’s Society, said the apparent delay in the legislation amounted to a “systematic abuse” of the human rights.

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International, Ireland, said the law was needed urgently.

The Department of Justice said the Bill was a priority piece of legislation.