Who are you calling a Lunatic?

On International Day for People with Disabilities (today, Monday 3rd December), Irish law still calls people with disabilities Lunatics – despite repeated promises of change.

People with intellectual disabilities, those with mental health problems and older people with dementia, are all termed ‘Lunatics’ under Irish law.

The 2011 Programme for Government promised reform of the 1871 Lunacy Regulations Act which legislates for decision-making, but we are still waiting for a Bill to be brought before the Oireachtas. A  Capacity Bill is currently on the ‘A’ list of legislation, but it was also on the ‘A’ list for the Spring session, yet no Bill was published.

Inclusion Ireland says there is an urgent need to reform this long outdated law. CEO Paddy Connolly says:

“This is not an old law that has no affect on people in modern Ireland. Every week Inclusion Ireland receives calls from people who have been severely adversely affected by this law. People with an intellectual disability, serious mental health problems, dementia and acquired brain injury are all affected by this law, which takes away a person’s right to make decisions about their life.

“The Lunacy Act allows for the Ward of Court system, which means that for someone who has been made a ‘Ward of Court’, the Court makes all decisions about their lives, from medical and money decisions, to leaving the country and marrying.

“Ireland is behind every other European country in this area. While other countries allow for people to be supported to make decisions, Ireland takes all rights away from the person and the Court imposes a decision on them. We need to move away from the paternalistic stance of looking after what we decide are people’s ‘best interests’, and move towards recognising a person’s right to make decisions about their own lives, and to enable them to be supported to make decisions.

“The Government says that without modern capacity law Ireland cannot ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which we signed up to nearly six years ago. Modern law in this area was promised since 2008 by the previous Government, and the current coalition committed to modern capacity law in their 2011 Programme for Government.

“On today, International Day for People with Disabilities, this Government must do the right thing and finally take the word ‘Lunatic’ out of Irish law”.