Minister Finian McGrath’s plans to bring forward proposals to cabinet to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) without passing all of the legislation is an empty gesture, according to the country’s largest disability charity.
Rehab Group, which supports over 17,000 people with disabilities, says that Minister McGrath’s plans will have no real impact on the lives of people with disabilities if legalisation identified in the Treaty is not implemented urgently.
The charity says a strict timeline for enactment must accompany ratification.
Kathleen O’Meara, Rehab Group Director of Communications and Public Affairs said: “For more than a decade, Ireland has justified non-ratification by seeking to be an exemplar for the human rights of people with disabilities. A decision to ratify without commitment to strict timelines for enactment of much-needed legislation will make a joke out of ten years of campaigning by disability groups.
“Without such a commitment we will have taken the same path as many other countries – ratify and then consider the consequences. But we didn’t need to wait over a decade to do that.”
Ireland is the only European country that has not ratified the UNCRPD, despite signing the treaty over a decade ago. In 2015, the Department of Justice published a list of actions that need to be completed to make sure Ireland is ready to uphold the rights of people with disabilities.
This list includes access to sign language interpreters to allow people who are dear to take part in juries, and legislation around the deprivation of liberty for people living in residential settings and nursing homes. Changes are also needed around criminal law to make sure that people who are unfit to plead are not subject to a harsher sentencing regime because their case is referred to a higher court.
“If ratification is to go ahead without completion of all of the required legislation, we need a watertight timeline for achievement of these objectives. The alternative is unthinkable – for example, people being deprived of their liberty in residential settings many years after Ireland has ratified the Convention,” added Ms O’Meara.
“Progress in disability policy is often characterised by delays. For over two years, the Irish Government has known that these changes are required and yet there hasn’t been the political will to make them happen. We do not want empty gestures, we need real change.”
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