Commission Raises Concern over Rights of Wards of Court in Proposed Assisted Decision-Making Law

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Addresses Oireachtas Members

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“The Commission”) has this evening told Members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth that “For far too long we as a State have put up with a system of wardship, which is detached and divergent from any contemporary understanding of the concept of personal autonomy.”

Commission Member Adam Harris and Dr Iris Elliott, Head of Policy & Research, addressed Oireachtas Members and outlined the Commission’s recommendations on the Pre-legislative scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Bill 2021, which will bring about an end to the current system of Wardship.

The Commission raised particular concerns over current weaknesses in the proposed legislation, raising a number of points. The Mental Health Act 2001, for example allows for a full right of appeal, but this Bill only allows for a limited appeal on the many decisions that can be made on capacity and related issues. Another area of concern is that the Bill is unclear on how Relevant Persons will be able to access legal representation. This compares unfavourably with the Mental Health Act 2001 that affords involuntarily detained persons a legal representative by way of statutory right.

The Commission has also asked legislators to examine in this draft law how wards themselves will be kept fully informed of the changes to be effected to their wardship regime.

In his opening address to the Oireachtas Joint Committee, Adam Harris, Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“The move to a rights-based approach, with respect for the will and preference of the person is long overdue. Offensive legislative language of lunatics and lunacy must be dispatched to the dustbin of history, replaced by a recognition of disabled people’s rights, and viewed through a lens of dignity, agency and participation.”

The Commission, while welcoming the formalisation of its role as Independent Monitor of Ireland’s obligation under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), stressed the need for meaningful participation of disabled people in this pre-legislative scrutiny, and in a continued exchange on the development of and implementation of this legislation.


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Editor’s Note

The full opening statement delivered by Adam Harris is available at the following link:

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.