Ratification of UN Disabilities Convention a key moment for Irish society: Minister

Update 8.45pm: The Dáil has tonight approved the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Ireland signed the agreement back in 2007, and is the last EU country to formally approve it.

The convention is designed to ensure people with disabilities have equal rights in all areas of life.

There was unanimous support for the proposal, but some including independent TD Michael Harty said it must be backed up with more funding.

The passing of the motion has also been met with a commitment to participation in the monitoring of the Convention by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner, said the UN Convention ratification represents a step-change in approach to one based on independence, dignity and self-advocacy for persons with disabilities.

“The Convention is, in its own way remarkably simple. It does not reinvent the wheel. It does not draw up or confer any new human rights. What it does is mark out in clear, unambiguous terms that the rights of persons with disabilities are human rights. It makes plain that our body of international human rights norms apply equally to persons with disabilities.”

In a statement tonight the Commission said that over the coming year with the Convention in force, the Commission will be taking forward a number of steps:

* Developing a mechanism for State monitoring, including the establishment of a specific advisory committee.

* Developing public information in relation to promoting an understanding and awareness of the Convention.

Protesters at a previous UN Disabilities Rights Protest

Reacting tonight the Minister of State for Disability Issues, Finian McGrath T.D., said the approval of the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities marked a key moment not only for people living with a disability, but also for their families, friends and support networks and for Irish society generally.

"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.

"The next step will be for the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to sign the instrument of ratification and arrange for it to be deposited with the Secretary General of the United Nations. The Convention enters into force for Ireland 30 days thereafter."

Minister McGrath paid tribute to the committed family members, carers, public representatives and activists who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the voices of persons with disabilities are heard so that they can take up their rightful place as visible and active members of our society.

“Ratification of the Convention was a key commitment in the Programme for Government and has been one of the highest of priorities for me since becoming Minister. I am very pleased to now be able to deliver on that commitment.

"Becoming parties to the Convention provides a focus and structure to our journey, reaffirms our aspiration to improve the lives of persons with Disabilities in Ireland and holds us to account in our commitments.

"It rebalances the right of people with disabilities to make decisions for themselves, rather than have decisions made for them. With ratification soon to be in place, I can now focus on using the Convention to better equip and resource people with disabilities to improve their quality of life.”

Earlier: Dáil debate approval of UN convention on disability rights

The Dáil is debating the approval of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Ireland signed the agreement back in 2007, but it needs Oireachtas approval to come into force.

The convention is designed to ensure people with disabilities have equal rights in all areas of life.

The proposal was brought forward by the Minister for State with responsibility for Disability Issues, Finian McGrath.

He said: "The convention offers us an opportunity to reassess our attitudes to people with disabilities and place a renewed focus on their place in society.

"To rebalance the right of people with disabilities and make decisions for themselves rather than have their decisions made for them."

The proposal received support from all sides of the house.

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