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'Sarah Jane would like to live independently with support. No such service or plan is possible'

The Dáil finally voted to accept the Convention even though not all legislation has been passed or even enacted, writes Suzy Byrne.

Suzy Byrne Disability activist

LAST WEEK, MINISTER for State with responsibility for people with disabilities, Finian McGrath, visited The United Nations in New York to formally ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

It is over 11 years since Ireland said it would ratify this human rights treaty which was originally written by governments and people with disabilities to ensure that all disabled people would be respected and have full rights under national and international laws.

Refusing to ratify

Successive Irish governments refused to ratify the document saying they needed first to have the necessary legislation in place. However this year the Dáil finally voted to accept the Convention even though not all legislation has been passed or even enacted.

Additionally the government has not signed up to a protocol which would allow individuals take complaints under the convention when they believe their rights are being infringed.

Many people might think that disabled people will have now automatic rights to the supports they need to ensure they are fully equal with everyone else. Sadly this is not the case. In fact it is so long since the Convention was first written that most disabled people and our allies don’t even know what it says and how it is supposed to operate.

You can read the easy read version of the Convention here to see how comprehensive it is but how far we as a country have to go to ensure we are meeting it.

Members of Disabled People of Ireland are highlighting the government’s failure to ensure the rights afforded to them by the articles of the Convention are met.

Right to live independently with support

Sarah Jane Lavin from Kildare pointed to Article 19 of the Convention which says that Ireland should recognise the right of all to live in the community.

Sarah Jane would like to live independently with support and have a choice in the supports she requires and from whom they are to be provided by. No such service or plan is possible or foreseen and Sarah Jane is not asked how she wishes to live her life.

Fiona Walsh from Dublin would like community services to respect her human rights and choices regarding her emotional health. Upholding Article 12 Equal Recognition before the Law and Article 14 Liberty and Security of the Person would ensure her autonomy, will and preferences, and legal capacity are respected.

Article 15 prohibits torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and upholds the requirement to give informed consent along with the right to Bodily Integrity. None of these are currently guaranteed in Irish legislation enacted at present.


Frank Larkin from Donegal says he can’t take public transport without assistance or giving significant prior notice. None of the services are accessible and there is no financial support to afford an accessible taxi. Article 20 of the UNCRPD says disabled people should be able to use transport systems.

Fiona Weldon from Meath says the government is not meeting its requirements to provide her with an adequate standard of living and social protection as set out in Article 28 of the Convention. Fiona is waiting on additional supports hours for two years, her freedom of movement is compromised because she can’t leave her house without support.

Her working hours are also restricted as a result. She cannot go down town in her electric chair without support because either footpaths are not even or there are few accessible corresponding crossings.

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Women with disabilities

Rosaleen McDonagh who lives in Dublin says the State is failing its commitments to ensure that women and girls with disabilities are being treated equally. Article 6 of the Convention says that women with disabilities face multiple discrimination and that the State should ensure that they enjoy full rights and protections.

Rosaleen points to the lack of appropriate supports for women with disabilities who experience domestic violence or assault.

The Oireachtas has yet to pass the Disability (Misc Provisions) Bill 2016 which would ensure the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is given the task to monitor the implementation of the convention and that the monitoring committee is  composed by a majority of Disabled People as per Article 33 of the convention.

The Convention is completely toothless without active monitoring and the Minister’s visit to New York was cosmetic while so much legislation and policy is either not in place or completely against the spirit of the Convention.

All government ministers and all actions of the State need to be disability proofed and tested against the Convention from now on. Disabled people and those who support us need to know what the convention says and be finally and fully given the rights afforded to us under it.

Suzy Byrne is co-chairperson of Disabled People of Ireland ( DPOI is an new organisation which aims to be governed directly by persons with disabilities across the full range of impairments working to ensure that decisions taken by the State and its agencies are made in full consultation with disabled people.

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About the author:

Suzy Byrne  / Disability activist

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