by Mary Keogh & Eilinoir Flynn
The Centre for Disability Law and Policy NUI Galway and CBM Ireland held a briefing on the impact of the EU’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on May 18th last at Leinster House.
The key objective of the meeting was to raise awareness among Oireachtas members about the EU’s recent ratification of the Convention, and the importance of ratification in Ireland. The briefing was well attended by both Oireachtas members and civil society organisations showing strong and wide support for achieving the objective.
Opening the briefing, Minister of State for Disability and Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch TD acknowledged that Ireland is one of the remaining 11 EU Member States which has yet to ratify the Convention and she reaffirmed the State’s commitment to ratify as soon as all legislative and administrative requirements under the Convention are met.
The Minister emphasised the continuing importance of the National Disability Strategy in meeting Ireland’s obligations under the Convention and identified the forthcoming Mental Capacity Bill as a key stepping stone towards Ireland’s ratification. The Minister also raised the possibility of examining the language in the proposed Bill, with a view to using the term ‘legal capacity’ rather than mental capacity, reflecting best international practice on this issue.
Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway Director, Professor Gerard Quinn said that the Convention is not solely about disability, but introduces a new theory of justice which benefits all citizens.
He discussed the rationale for the EU’s ratification of the Convention, which was based on the notion that it would be irrational to exclude a significant proportion of the population from economic and social space in the European Community. He described the status of the Convention in EU law as having ‘quasi-constitutional status’ which means that it will be given serious consideration by the European Court of Justice in interpreting EU law, and that the Convention will form the basis for new EU legislation, including proposed legislation on e-accessibility.
Special Olympics Europe and Eurasia Managing Director, Mary Davis and CBM Ireland Director, David McAllister highlighted Ireland’s leadership on disability issues among the international community. However, they emphasised that Ireland’s non-ratification of the Convention has become a talking point among their international counterparts.
For example, CBM Ireland through its work with people with disabilities in the poorest countries finds that Ireland’s non-ratification has been raised on many occasions by countries in the developing world that have already ratified the Convention. Both speakers urged the government to ratify without delay, as this would lend support to their work overseas, as well as honouring Ireland’s commitment to equality and human rights for people with disabilities as guaranteed in the National Disability Strategy.
The Centre for Disability Law and Policy was formally established in 2008 and is dedicated to produce research that informs debate on national and international disability law reform. http://www.nuigalway.ie/cdlp/
CBM Ireland is an Irish NGO that is committed to improving the quality of lives of people with disabilities in the poorest countries of the world. http://www.cbm.ie/