Disability rights are 10 years overdue

Law Society calls on Government to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

  •  Recommendation: a whole-of-government approach is required and the Department of the Taoiseach should take carriage of overseeing implementation
  • Concerns that the National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021, released in July 2017, is an inadequate response and falls short of UNCPRD directives

The Law Society of Ireland has used the International Day for Persons with Disabilities (3 December 2017) to call on the Irish Government to prioritise implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) – 10 years after the State signed the treaty.

Taking a whole-of-government approach

Ken Murphy, Director General of the Law Society of Ireland highlighted the lengthy delays and called on Government to take a whole-of-government approach to implementation of the UNCPRD.

“The Irish Government signed the UNCRPD 10 years ago but still has to ratify it. At last count, 175 countries have ratified it and even the European Union itself has taken the profound step of ratifying it,” he said.

“Ireland is the only country in the European Union yet to ratify the UNCRPD – and we believe there are no legal grounds impeding ratification. The Directive does not create new rights, but rather consolidates existing rights in one comprehensive treaty.”

“The UNCPRD is one of the most significant human rights treaties in decades, and will require a whole-of-government approach to implementation. To this end, it makes sense that the responsibility and oversight for this should reside with the Department of Taoiseach.”

Law Society submissions on disability rights 

To support the Government on resolving some of the legislative entanglements of implementation, the Law Society has made three separate, but related, submissions to Government in 2017:

“We acknowledge that the Minister for Disabilities, Finian McGrath T.D., has been a long-term advocate for disability rights in this country, and has stated an intention for the Government to ratify the UNCPRD by the end of the year – but here we are in December and ratification remains outstanding,” said Mr Murphy.

 “What we are talking about here is the failure of the State to acknowledge, in an international treaty, basic human rights for our citizens with disabilities.”

Comment on the National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021 

Gary Lee, a member of the Law Society’s Human Rights Committee and its Mental Health Law and Capacity Task Force, spoke about the Government’s National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021, that was released in July 2017:

“The Strategy is very disappointing - it does very little to address meaningful and practical ways to ensure inclusion of people with disabilities in the community as required by the UNCRPD,” he said.

“Specifically, it lacks targets and timelines, which are crucial in order for Government to show a clear intent to realise the UNCRPD rights.”

“Despite continuing Government promises over the past 10 years, the Strategy itself makes no mention of when Ireland will ratify the UNCRPD, and lacks any clarity of commitment to specific articles in the Directive, including:

  • Supports for people with disabilities - such as personal assistance services - to enable them to live independently and be included in the community (Article 19).
  • Poverty - the right to an adequate standard of living and social protection (Article 28).
  • Access to justice (Article 13).”

“The Government has been making the right noises, but its actions fall short of what is needed. For example, the recent ‘Future of Healthcare’ plan only provides for an additional €300m for disability over a 10 year period - so the Government isn't committing appropriate resources. Transitioning for school leavers with disabilities, for example, will require this and more alone.”

“This is a hugely important human rights issue affecting the 643,000 people with disabilities in Ireland.”

  • Read an article by Gary Lee on the rights of people with disabilities in the March 2017 Gazette

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