Recently I spoke on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Motion. The purpose of the Convention is 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.
People with disabilities experience inequality more acutely than anyone else. They tell us they are a long way from the kind of society in which they would like to live. The facts of inequality speak for themselves, not to mention the extra costs imposed on those who live with a disability. There has been progress on equality for others, including LGBT people. We had the marriage referendum. It is an unequal world, however, for those who live with a disability and that was exacerbated by budgets in the austerity years. Ireland took a different approach to ratification and is the last member state of the EU to ratify the convention. I can understand how that failure to ratify has been seen by those with a disability as an indication that they were a lower priority for successive Governments. We have had a great deal of lipservice.
I have looked at the reactions of those with disabilities. Senator John Dolan of the Disability Federation welcomes ratification but his statement also made the point that we cannot be happy with that alone and must look at the implementation plan and its timeframe. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, to which Ireland is a party, and our Constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, contain a number of rights which have not extended to those with a disability. Ratification must be the start of a process which will mean planned, resourced implementation to create real outcomes for people with a disability. That must be reflected in budgetary measures. As we talk about gender proofing and equality proofing budgets, we should focus in particular on disability proofing. That is something at which our budget oversight office could look at.
I have looked at the response of Inclusion Ireland. Those with an intellectual disability have very particular needs. I acknowledge those who work in the intellectual disability area and the challenges they have. They welcome ratification but have concerns and note the need for a clear timetable for implementation. The Minister of State said himself that it will take a whole-of-Government approach. As such, their call for a single focal point in the Department of the Taoiseach makes sense and would show a real commitment to people with a disability. They have called for a monitoring mechanism because post-ratification the EU will monitor and examine implementation. We would like a good report in that regard. A way to bring that about would be to appoint an advisory and monitoring committee of people with disabilities. That committee should be resourced, trained and supported.
I refer to carers. We have heard many harrowing stories from parents and other relatives caring for someone with a disability. There is an awareness of the significant savings to the Government where those with a disability are cared for at home. I am struck greatly by the realisation that those of us in the Chamber cannot know what kind of intellectual or physical disability we may face in years to come. Ireland played a key role in the sustainable development goals and disability is part of that. As we want to bring about equality in the wider world, we could start here in Ireland with a commitment to end poverty for those with a disability. I hope ratification means an end to protests by people with a disability like the one which took place outside the Dáil overnight. I remember the late Martin Naughton, also, in particular from my leaving certificate English class many years ago. I want to remember another voice, namely one for those with intellectual disability and mental health issues. I refer to the late John McCarthy of Mad Pride who was from Cork.
I liked the point the Minister of State made about the need to focus on ability not disability. There is cause for him to celebrate this evening. He sat through successive Governments which failed to ratify the convention, which might still not be ratified had he not been appointed to his office. This is only one step, however, and there are many more left to take.
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