Disability rights in Ireland

October 16th, 2013 is Blog Action Day, dedicated to human rights. Bloggers in 126 countries are writing about things that matter, like education for everyone, healthcare for each and every person on this planet and many, many more human right subjects.

After yesterday’s announcement of Budget 2014 by the Irish government, I clearly see what I need and want to address with my post for Blog Action Day 2013.

Earlier this year I wrote about attending two conferences in Dublin about the UN Conventions on the Rights for People with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The first one was about Ireland’s slow move towards ratifying the CRPD convention, the second one in regards to the right to public and political life for people with disabilities.

Just to recap: the CRPD is an international human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 13th December 2006. It consists of a body of international experts that monitors implementation of the Convention by the States Parties. Ireland, like the Netherlands and many other countries, signed the convention but have not yet ratified it.

In other words: governments are required to develop and ensure disability policies are followed on laws and administrative measures that are mentioned in the Convention. Equally, those laws and policies that are seen as discrimination, need to be abolished.

The obligations on States Parties in relation to the rights of persons with disabilities are as follows:

Ψ adopt legislation and administrative measures to promote the human rights of persons with disabilities;

Ψ adopt legislative and other measures to abolish discrimination;

Ψ protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities in all policies and programmes;

Ψ stop any practice that breaches the rights of persons with disabilities;

Ψ ensure that the public sector respects the rights of persons with disabilities;

Ψ ensure that the private sector and individuals respect the rights of persons with disabilities;

Ψ undertake research and development of accessible goods, services and technology for persons with disabilities and encourage others to undertake such research;

Ψ provide accessible information about assistive technology to persons with disabilities;

Ψ promote training on the rights of the Convention to professionals and staff who work with persons with disabilities;

Ψ consult with and involve persons with disabilities in developing and implementing legislation and policies and in decision-making processes that concern them.

I will not get into specifics and semantics about protocols and laws because the issues of ratifying the convention are plentiful, but yesterday’s budget announcement in Dáil Éireann is once again a kick in the stomach of the elderly and the sick.  There is an urgent need to ratify the UNCRPD so.

Reason? Because of the incompetence and greed of the Fianna Fáil government in Ireland from 1987 to 2011, the Fine Gael and Labour government has been forced to deliver budget after budget with cuts to each and every one. However, this year many items in the budget are aimed at the elderly and the sick:

Ψ €113m to be saved by removing `ineligible and redundant’ medical cards, and introducing wider medical card probity;

Ψ prescription charges go from €1.50 per prescribed item to €2.50 per item, with a cap of €23 if more needs to be paid for medication;

Ψ income threshold for medical cards for over-70s; lowered meaning 35,000 older people forced to make do with the GP card;

Ψ number of waiting days for illness benefit rises to six from the previous three;

Ψ telephone allowance in household benefits package; to be discontinued from January 1st, saving €44 million

Ψ the €850 bereavement grant is being abolished;

Ψ some 90 percent of women in receipt of maternity; benefit claim the higher rate of €262 per week but this is to be cut to €230 per week next year;

Ψ 2014 will be the hardest budget in the history of the health department;

Ψ the health service will be expected to cut costs by another €666 million next year.

It is clear so that the rights for disabled people in Ireland are not fully met, and that much more needs to be done to get social justice for each and every person living in Ireland, regardless of nationality and disability.

In a time when too many disabled people all over the world are hurting because of existing inequality, dogma and exclusion, Ireland, as a wealthy western European country, once again has its people being denied inclusion and this needs to end now. Getting the Convention ratified is of major importance, even if/when governments are not interested in doing so.

I am therefore 100% convinced about the need for rights for people with disabilities and the UN Convention on the Rights for People with Disabilities needs to be ratified now. Allowing disabled people to live as normal a life as possible sounds unbelievable if it was happening in poor countries, but in this day and age in Ireland, disabled people should not be denied their basic rights. It’s not just a given to healthy people anymore.

There is a real necessity for people with disabilities to be recognized by their own government. Disabled and ill people want to live, truly live, but once again we are put in the front line of budget cuts because of the utter greed of the Fianna Fáil governments.

What we as ill people want, is to live like everyone else in Ireland, with human rights and budget announcements that don’t make us think of getting out of this life, out of the misery that is being chronically ill. We have a voice, and we will continue to use that voice to say that we simply cannot give any more.

We must educate Irish and foreign citizens living in Ireland about what the convention would mean as disabled people, what it could mean to people waiting for a diagnosis to put their minds at ease. Unaware yet of their future on a medical level, they should be comforted by the idea that their country is doing everything possible to respect their rights.

We, as already disabled people, must check with our government and find out what the value of our life and as people are to them. Are we only as important as the money we put into their bank account or are we as important as healthy people, as valuable as them and do we not hurt enough already without being treated unequally by the people who should protect us?

Ireland is still in the top 20 of the richest countries in the world, using austerity and recession is not a legitimate reason not to ratify the UN convention. Failing to do so is to disgrace disabled people by not acknowledging their human rights.

What I wanted to bring in this blog post was the view from a person living with a disability, not one trying to explain what conventions and protocols mean. Explain it as someone who thought her government had already ratified this ever so important document.

After a sleepless night of worrying where I will get €23 each month for the long list of medication I need, and worrying if my mobility allowance will be scrapped or not, I wanted to bring all this to the fore.

I may be disabled according to convention semantics, but I am able enough to stand up and ask my government to please review some of the cuts made and to please keep in place the so needed mobility allowance.





UNCRPD image

For a complete analysis of the conference, please read this post:

For more on this subject, please check these webpages:

©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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