Ten years after Ireland signed the key International Treaty on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“the Commission”) is calling on the State to explain, to people with disabilities, the continuing delay in Ireland’s ratification.
Ireland today stands alone as the last remaining EU Member State, and among a small number of States globally not to have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
The call from the Commission comes as people with disabilities from across Ireland voice their frustration in a protest today outside of the Oireachtas to mark ten years to the day, since Ireland’s signature of the International Treaty.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission as an independent body has been at the forefront over several years of calls for the State to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with direct interventions and recommendations made to Government, Oireachtas Members and to International Human Rights monitoring bodies. (See detail within note to editor)
While it is a ground-breaking document, the Convention is, in its own way, remarkably simple. It does not draw up or confer any new human rights. What it does is mark out in clear, unambiguous terms that the rights of persons with disabilities are human rights. It makes plain that our body of international human rights norms apply equally to persons with disabilities.
The Convention also, and crucially, adopts a modern, forward-looking model of disability, which marks it out from the more paternalistic approach taken toward disability in previous treaties and mechanisms. The Convention also leaves behind the old charitable/medical models of disability where people with disabilities are viewed as passive recipients of decision making by people who think they know better. Instead, the Convention recognises people with disabilities as primary stakeholders, active participants and equal partners in State action around disability.
A crucial aspect of the ratification will be the establishment of a formal national monitoring mechanism, with, for the first time in Irish law, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission identified as that monitor, in addition to the Commission having an advisory committee made up of people with lived experience of disabilities.
Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Emily Logan stated:
“The decade-long delay in Irish ratification has been a source of immense frustration for persons with disabilities, and this frustration is now being voiced in demonstrations outside of the Oireachtas.
“A decade after Ireland signed this Convention with its associated commitment to make rights real for persons with disabilities in Ireland, the denial of rights requires a clear explanation from the State to those affected.
“Ireland’s approach to disability has historically been stubbornly grounded in a medical and charitable approach. Ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities can change this. This Convention does not draw up or confer any new human rights, but it does mark out in clear, unambiguous terms that the rights of persons with disabilities are human rights.”
Chief Commissioner Emily Logan also further commented:
“In line with our recommendations made in May 2016, the State must ensure in ratification that participation by persons with disabilities will be a cornerstone of Irish implementation of the Convention.”
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Notes to editor:
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, as an independent body has been at the forefront on State ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with direct interventions on this matter, including:
- May 2016 – the publication, in partnership with NUI, Galway of a report making a clear recommendations on the ratification process and monitoring framework. The report entitled “Article 33: Establishing a Monitoring Framework for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” provided evaluating models of best practice from six jurisdictions in Germany, the UK, Spain, Sweden, Malta and New Zealand.
- December 2016 – Publication of direct legislative advice to Government and Oireachtas Members warning that people with disabilities in Ireland risk being further excluded from decisions, which impact their daily lives, from employment to voting without ratification.
- March 2017 – A face-to-face meeting with Finian McGrath T.D., Minister of State with special responsibility for Disabilities, in relation to the ‘Grace’ investigation, raising again the State’s international obligation under the UNCRPD.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has also consistently raised Ireland’s non-ratification directly to International Treaty Monitoring Bodies, including for example:
- To the 2015 review of Ireland under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
- To the 2016 review of Ireland’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
- To Ireland’s second Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human rights Council in 2016,
- And most recently to Ireland’s February 2017 review by the UN of our obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission was set up on 1 November 2014 as an independent public body 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 Act 2014 sets out the functions of the Commission, i.e. to ensure that:
- there is respect for, and protection of, everyone’s human rights;
- there is respect for the dignity and worth of each person;
- a person’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice, discrimination, or neglect;
- everyone has a fair and equal opportunity to take part in the economic, political, social or cultural life of the State; and
- people respect each other, respect equality and human rights, and understand the value of diversity within society
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.