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Ireland will ratify UN Convention on Disabilities at end of February

The government has submitted some reservations on people with disabilities joining the Gardaí or Defence Forces.

The launch of the Arts & Disability Ireland Leading Change in Arts and Culture strategy.
The launch of the Arts & Disability Ireland Leading Change in Arts and Culture strategy.
Image: Leon Farrell via RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT HAS agreed to finally ratify the UN’s Convention on Disabilities.

Once it does, Ireland will become the last signatory to do so – 10 years after agreeing to the rights which were enshrined in the Convention. Ratifying it would mean Ireland is bound to it by international law to uphold rights for those with disabilities.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath said that the Convention would be ratified at the end of February.

He confirmed that all the necessary legislation related to the convention hadn’t been put in place, which authorities had previously said was the reason the Convention hadn’t been ratified to date.

“We made a political decision at the Cabinet yesterday to ensure that we will sign the Convention at the end of February. So essentially what the process is, we ratify, and while this is going on I’ll bringing the Disabilities Bill and the Deprivation of Liberties legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas.”

The government has, however been criticised for proposing three reservations to the ratification – among which is excluding people with disabilities from joining the Defence Forces or An Garda Síochána.

Responding to this criticism, McGrath said:

“We will put in safeguards for people and of course people can put in for the Gardaí, the Coast Guard, the prison service, there will be no question of discrimination. What we want to do is put protections in there until we finalise this legislation, with the support of the disability community.”

Why has it taken so long?

Ireland is the only EU country that has yet to ratify the Convention. Ireland signed it in March 2007, however, technically, signing the Convention declares only an aspiration to ratification.

Ratifying it means Ireland is bound to it by international law. It would only become the law of the land here were the Oireachtas to pass CRPD legislation in the aftermath of ratification.

The CRPD, the first such human rights convention of the 21st century, was drafted in December 2006.

Fundamentally, it works as a target for nations to aim for in granting equal status to people living with disabilities – for example with regard to public transport adequately catering for wheelchair-users.

The convention states its purpose as being “to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity”.

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However, the Irish ratification has been mired by delays.

As our FactFind stated, Ireland set out its stall early on stating that it did not wish to ratify until all of the country’s laws were sufficiently compliant in order for it to be legally viable.

The Eighth Amendment


Asked about the arguments used by some of those against the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in the referendum proposed for the end of May, McGrath said that he was against children being used in that way.

“They shouldn’t use disabilities as a political football, and as a parent of a daughter with intellectual disabilities I would encourage people to use the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee, because the Joint Oireachtas Committee did not recommend a non-fatal disability as grounds for abortion.”

- with reporting from Christina Finn and Cianan Brennan.

Read: ‘A watershed moment’: Resolution to ratify UN disabilities convention to go before the Dáil

Read: ‘No-one else has to do this’ – Irish Rail criticised over new travel plans for wheelchair users

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