UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will not be ratified until 2017 – 10 years after Ireland signed the human rights treaty
Lack of commitment to timely ratification demonstrates that Ireland is out of step with international norms on rights of persons with intellectual disabilities
Inclusion Ireland and the Centre for Disability Law and Policy (CDLP) are calling on the Government to take progressive steps towards ensuring that Ireland joins the 96% of States that have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
The admission from the Minister of State with responsibility for disabilities, Finian McGrath, that the UNCRPD will not be ratified this year demonstrates that Ireland is out of step with international norms on the rights of persons with disabilities.
Ireland now faces the ignominy of reaching the 10-year anniversary of signing the Convention in March 2007 without ratifying it – clear evidence that people with disabilities are not a priority for this Government.
The previous Government introduced a ‘Roadmap to Ratification’ in October 2015 which outlined all the legislative changes to be undertaken to enable Ireland to ratify the Convention, along with the estimated timeframe involved.
However, it now appears that there is a roadblock to the roadmap with Minister McGrath admitting that “blockages in the system” will mean that Ireland will miss the deadlines set by Government and will not ratify the UNCRPD this year.
Ireland remains the only country in the European Union that has failed to ratify the UNCRPD after the Netherlands and Finland ratified it earlier this year. Persons with disabilities are clearly not a priority for this Government having failed to ratify a full year after the last EU country to do so.
The Government must publish a new timescale for ratification including all remaining aspects of the ‘Roadmap to Ratification’ rather than rush a hasty ratification past the post:
• Full commencement of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015;
• The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 must be amended to reflect a disability-neutral approach to relationships and family life;
• The publication of the Equality/Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill to ensure all remaining legislative barriers are removed;
• The introduction of legislation that ensures safeguards against deprivation of liberty.
Sarah Lennon, Inclusion Ireland Equality & Human Rights Officer, said:
“Ireland has waited almost a decade for ratification of the UNCRPD and successive Ministers for Justice have claimed that this was to ensure that Ireland had brought all domestic legislation into line. This has not happened and any hasty ratification of the Convention would be an insult to persons with disabilities who have waited so long.
“The fact that the UNCRPD has not been ratified in Ireland is a national embarrassment and is a deeply worrying lack of commitment for persons with disabilities who are currently at risk of being further excluded from decisions which impact their daily lives, from employment to voting.
“The Convention sets out in clear terms that the rights of persons with disabilities are human rights and these rights apply equally to persons with disabilities; the fact that the UNCRPD will not be ratified this year shows that people with disabilities in Ireland are not a priority for this Government.
“The Government must look at clearing the blockages that are preventing the ratification of the UNCRPD as quickly and effectively as possible – something people with disabilities will be waiting 10 long years for at least.”
Dr Eilionóir Flynn, Deputy Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy and Senior Lecturer with the School of Law in NUIG, said:
“The ‘Roadmap to Ratification’ indicated that Ireland will have either a reservation or declaration on Articles 12 and 14. Since these articles protect the rights to legal capacity and liberty, they are core to the Convention. It is extremely disappointing that Ireland is not in a position to fully commit to the Convention without such reservations almost 10 years after first signing the treaty.”
“Also, I am concerned that the provisions of both the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill and the Equality/Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will not themselves sufficiently respect the human rights of persons with disabilities to ensure conformity with the principles of the UNCRPD.”
NOTES FOR THE EDITOR:
(a) Roadmap to Ratification
In October 2015, Ministers Frances Fitzgerald and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin published a roadmap to Ireland’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), outlining legislative changes to be undertaken to enable Ireland to ratify the Convention, along with the estimated timeframe involved. At that time the Ministers claimed that as Ireland is a dualist State, the Constitution required the State to be in a position to meet the obligations it assumes under the terms of an international agreement from the moment of its entry into force for Ireland.
(b) The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015
The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 was signed into law by President Michael D Higgins on December 30th 2015. This ground-breaking legislation will result in significant improvements in the lives of persons with intellectual disabilities as their ability to make decisions for themselves will be enshrined in law. The legislation also demonstrates a seismic cultural shift away from a paternalistic and ‘best interests’ approach towards persons with intellectual disabilities to a right-based approach of choice, control and consent.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) provides the framework to promote, protect and ensure the rights of all people with disabilities and promotes equal rights in all areas of life. The Convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006 in an effort to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy the same human rights as everyone else. Ireland signed the CPRD in March 2007. However, Ireland is one of the few Member States of the EU yet to ratify the Convention.
(d) Sexual Offences Bill
The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 is currently at Dail Committee Stage and if passed, will repeal its 1993 counterpart that makes it an offence to have sexual intercourse with a mentally impaired person. That 1993 Act was identified by the Irish Government in the Roadmap to Ratification as required to satisfy Article 23 which requires States Parties to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities in all matters relating to marriage, family, parenthood and relationships.