Short URL Friday 9 Dec 2016, 6:30 AM 1,541 Views Dec 9th 2016, 6:30 AM http://jrnl.ie/3125956 30 Comments THIS WEEK MINISTER of State with Responsibility for Disabilities, Finian McGrath confirmed, at the eleventh hour, that he would not reach his target of ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) before the end of 2016. The news was disappointing and unsurprising in equal measure.Ireland is now the last country in Europe to ratify this critical treaty, and we face serious criticism for allowing a full decade to pass since becoming one of the first countries to sign it. The fact that Ireland also played an instrumental role in the drafting of the Convention, during its tenure of the presidency of Europe, is even more embarrassing.What difference does it make?To answer this questions, let’s take a look at Article 19 of the Convention, which provides a clear vision for the future – that people with disabilities have a right to live in the community as equal citizens. This includes living in their own homes, or with their families, going to work, going to school and taking part in community activities.This means the State is charged with taking effective and appropriate action to ensure that people with disabilities are not excluded from decisions such as where they want to live, whether they have access to the supports and services to promote inclusion and prevent segregation, and whether community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with disabilities.Languishing in institutions Many people with disabilities living in institutions or languishing in unsuitable settings. Source: Shutterstock/alex makarenkoThe current reality for many people with disabilities living in institutions or languishing in unsuitable settings means, as of yet, they have no such right to choose and remain invisible when it comes to policy and service provision.The fact that the convention will not be ratified this year is a damning indictment of how people with disabilities are prioritised in this country, and is deeply troubling for people living with disabilities, who are everyday excluded from decisions on the most critical aspects of their lives.We were told that we cannot ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities until “all our ducks are in a row” and yet almost a decade on, a raft of critical legislation to address a range of legislative barriers to ratification have still not been enacted.Legislation that restricts normal lifeLegislation is preventing people with disabilities from enjoying the everyday freedoms that people without disabilities take for granted, such as the right to choose where to live, the right to appropriate supports to achieve an education and employment, the right to engage in a sexual relationship.The continued criminalisation of sex with an adult with an intellectual disability creates a situation where people with intellectual disabilities are often neither supported nor encouraged to look for a romantic life partner, which is a normal part of life for everyone else.The current Criminal Justice Bill designates someone with intellectual disabilities as a “protected person”, as an acknowledgement of the difference of ability such a person has in making decisions about their lives. While significant strides have been made since the passing of the 1993 bill to “establish people with disabilities as citizens with equal rights”, it is now time for similar equality to be given to people in relation to sexual relationships.600,000 people are living with discrimination here The rights of people with disabilities are human rights and these equally apply to people with disabilities. Source: Shutterstock/nd3000As we draw a close to the 1916 Centenary Programme, which commemorated the struggles and the sacrifices made for Ireland’s freedom, there are still, one hundred years on, 600,000 people are living with discrimination, exclusion and a marginalisation which is deeply embedded in our culture.The Convention clearly states that the rights of people with disabilities are human rights and these equally apply to people with disabilities. Ireland has a poor record of providing protection to people with disabilities who continue to face grave disadvantages. We all have a responsibility to ask ourselves how we view people with disabilities and whether we are being paternalistic in our thinking.We have much to achieve on a societal level before we have the kind of society that promotes inclusion for all. True, there are legal impediments to ratifying the CRPD, but there are no barriers to overcoming them. It is in the Government’s power to enact all relevant legislation and ratify the UNCRPD in a very short time. Further delays are unacceptable.It is time the Government recognised that citizens with disabilities deserve rights at par with the best international standards. What is lacking right now is political will.Kathleen O’Meara is Director of Communications, Public Affairs and Fundraising at the Rehab Group. Share Tweet Email3 Kathleen O’Meara By Kathleen O’Meara Tweet thisShare on FacebookEmail this article ‘Those with a disability have the right to choose where to live, to an education and to a sexual relationship’ Ireland has signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities but we are the only EU state that hasn’t ratified it, writes Kathleen O’Meara.