UN to review Irelands’ efforts to safeguard the rights of people with disabilities
Published: 16 June 2015
|The international Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
is an agreement that several countries have signed.
Currently, the United Nations is reviewing Ireland’s conformity to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. When it comes to the whole range of human rights such as a right to health, housing, education, work, family life, social security, cultural life and adequate living standards, Ireland, such as most other countries, is bound by the Covenant.
The rights of people with disabilities are also included.
During the review, taking place from 8 until 9 June in Geneva, a delegation from the Irish civil society will present an alternative report called ‘Our Voice, Our Rights’, which collects statistics and data from more than 80 affiliated organisations, depicting the state of human rights in Irish society.
The report also addresses the situation of 600,000 people with disabilities in Ireland, about 13% of the total population.
Within the publication, Jim Winters, Advocacy & Rights Officer of Inclusion Ireland, discusses about the situation of the economic, social and cultural rights of people with disabilities.
He starts with quoting the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities stating that “Disability is an evolving concept and it results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.
This statement puts people with disabilities in the position of active participants of society with rights, rather than solely passive receivers of care. It is as such that they should be treated.
However, Winters argues that this is not the case for Irish society and he is wary about the efforts made by the Irish government in order to make life for people with disabilities better:
“If you are a mother with an intellectual disability, you are far more likely to have your children removed by the State. And, as a victim of a crime, you face significantly more barriers to accessing justice if you have a disability. You could also be one of thousands of disabled people denied the right to make decisions about your own health, to marry or to leave the country. Under current Irish law you could be treated as a lunatic, a person of unsound mind or mentally impaired.”
Winters also says people with disabilities in Ireland are twice as likely to be subjected to hardship, as it is very expensive to have a disability: it takes up to 35% of a person's disposable income. Winters has also found a lot of discrimination in employment, as only 30% of people with disabilities in Ireland hold on to a job that may or not may come with a monthly salary or employment rights.
Additionally, 3000 people with disabilities in Ireland continue to live in large institutions, separated from mainstream society, with not much personal choice on where, with who or how they live.
When you have an intellectual disability in Ireland, your sexual life can also be limited, since consensual sexual relationships between people with intellectual disabilities, or people with intellectual disabilities and people without disabilities constitute a criminal offence according to Irish law.
Finally, Winters mentions Ireland to be one of the few EU Member States that so far has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and concludes that “no doubt the Irish government will have some solid answers to these questions in Geneva next week”.