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Minister to ask Cabinet to ratify disabilities legislation by end of December

The Independent Alliance’s Finian McGrath will look for his Cabinet colleagues to support his draft legislation today.

Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

MINISTER OF STATE for Disability Issues Finian McGrath is to ask his Cabinet colleagues today to begin the process to ratifying UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In March 2007 Ireland signed up to the convention, which works as a target for nations to aim for in granting equal status to people living with disabilities. Since last year, Ireland is the only EU country which has failed to ratify the convention.

Part of the reason for this is the long list of laws that need to be tweaked in advance of taking the final step, according to the Department of Justice.

But Dr Eilionóir Flynn, deputy director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy (CDLP) at NUI Galway, told TheJournal.ie previously that many countries ratified the convention without changing its laws.

Tomorrow, McGrath will go to Cabinet and ask his colleagues to support a draft legislation that would ratify the “deprivation of liberty” part of the Convention – despite the fact that not all the necessary laws have been changed.

I want the support on this aspect. I’m saying to the Cabinet now – we’ve done a lot of the ground work, I accept that we’ve some stuff to do, but we need to ratify the Convention.

“I’m trying to set the deadline towards the end of December – now I don’t know what they’re going to say to me about that, but that’s the page I’m on,” he told TheJournal.ie.

“I’ve been talking to disability groups up and down the country, I want to ratify the convention but I also want to discuss with them the deprivation of liberty aspect of the bill.”

So what I’m saying to them is, give me the space and time, so we can finally roll out and finish off the other aspects to it.

4037 Cabinet Meeting_90518877 Minister of State for Disability Issues, Finian McGrath. Source: Leah Farrell

When asked why it’s taken so long to get this far in the process, much to the frustration of people with disabilities and their families across the country, McGrath said that the recession stalled any work on the Convention.

During the years of austerity, it was taken off the pitch because the country was broke… It went off the political agenda.

“All the political parties have taken 10 years to ratify the Human Convention, the Independent Alliance are the only ones who have put it in the Programme for Government, and we’re here a year and a half and we’re going to ratify it.”

He said that having a dedicated minister to ”push the issue of disabilities” has accelerated the process to ratify the convention and right for people’s human rights.

“Every Tuesday I ask every minister what they’re doing for people with disabilities. It’s not just Finian McGrath Minister of State for Disability – every department has a responsibility for disability. So it’s now at the engine room of the Cabinet, and that’s why it’s beginning to get momentum.”

He says that he’s open to amendments to his proposed legislation, and is optimistic about the Cabinet’s reaction to the proposal.

[Ratifying the UN Convention] is a statement saying everyone is equal, everyone has rights. For me it’s a very exciting new energy that it will bring into the disability sector.

“Let’s get away from the charity model now – that day is over. Let’s get away from locking people up in institutions.

“I’ve a €100 million over the next three or four years to get them into community housing with the proper supports, and that’s the direction we should be going in.”

Read: ‘So many venues’ wheelchair bathrooms won’t have sanitary bins, soap, or mirrors – they barely have a working lock’

Read: FactFind: Why on earth hasn’t Ireland ratified the UN’s Convention on Disabilities?

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