UNCRPD, Ireland’s ten-year moral outrage

Ad nauseam.

Ah yes, you know the term.

In proper Wikipedia language, it reads “An argument or other discussion that has continued ‘to [the point of] nausea.” In Irish slang, “We are bloody well tired of talking or hearing about it.”

And that, dear reader, we are. Severely sick and tired of hearing that the Irish government will ratify the UNCRPD by a specified date, only to find out that they very silently forgot to live by that promise. Needless to say, having the gift of the gab in Dáil Éireann is an advantage, yet those we elected to represent our very needs refuse to use that gift when it matters most.

If you happen to reside in my social circle of friends, family, ex-colleagues, advocacy warriors and hospital-appointed researchers of my MS-ridden body, you will no doubt have heard me nag – also ad nauseam – about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The introduction into my pro-UNCRPD stance has been verified and found deliriously fatigued due to the 28 tablets and one injection a day, so I will do my utmost to cast a nice enough image of how bloody well tired we truly are.


As you are aware, the UN already has a convention on human rights under which people with disabilities are covered. It also has a very specific convention, however, on the right of those with disabilities, and so far 172 countries have signed and ratified it. It is a much-needed instrument that lists rights that should guarantee people with disabilities to improve their access to society, education, employment and rights to allow them to interact with their communities. In short, it is all about the rights of people with disabilities to participate in life (continue reading below video).

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on December 13th, 2006 and was opened for signatures of the state parties three months later, on March 30th, 2007. Since then, Ireland’s non-ratification stood out while countries like Mongolia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan or Afghanistan have all ratified the Convention, countries that have a far worse background than Ireland.

While Ireland signed the Convention on that very date in 2007, they have yet to ratify it. But, what is the difference?

By signing the UNCRPD, countries show that they are committed to following the ideas and principles of the Convention. It is, therefore, an agreement that indicates that governments will not do any such act which runs against the spirit and purpose of the Convention may result in the violation of human rights of persons with disabilities. Signing is only the first step and governments still need to ratify the CRPD at a later date.

Ratification, on the other hand, is the act of putting the CRPD into law. Countries must ensure and promote all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities without discrimination.

Greed versus need?

And this is where the Irish government has rather forgotten about the many times it promised to ratify by such and such a date. The last date promised was by the end of 2016. It is now March 20th, 2017 and we are still waiting for a) the ratification or b) the reason why the government once again let the day pass without making any noise about it.

UNCRPD advocacy may be a winding, uphill battle but the disability community in Ireland has an unyielding voice that does not break, because if we don’t yell and fight, who will do it for us? Throughout the years, governments cut disability services or altered them to a mere scratch of what people needed, ergo:

  • At which point in time did Dáil Éireann give itself permission to cut into the dignity of people with disabilities and remove our will to fight illnesses, wheelchairs, ignorant people or indeed, our TDs?
  • At which point in time did Dáil Éireann give itself permission to feel OK about making deep cuts to the Household Benefits Package and rip into the heart of people’s homes by targeting their gas, electricity and telephone usage while hardly touching the very high earners in the country?
  • When did Dáil Éireann say, “Yes, let’s cut housing grants and social housing budgets by over 50% while raising rent supplements for people in private accommodation?”
  • When did Dáil Éireann come up with the notion that removing medical cards from parents with children with cancer while allowing healthy people to own medical cards?

The answers to these questions to many in the disability community is a matter of “greed” versus “need”.


My view? People who live with disabilities do not find it “just OK” that they have to wait six months before receiving a minuscule welfare increase, especially after so many sectors had successfully dangled their hands in the Leinster House coffers already. People with disabilities also have mortgages to pay, children to feed and lives to live. Yes, we do have medical and other benefits, but let me assure you, life as a chronically ill person is tiring, expensive and painful, no pun intended.

Society has gone overboard on a moral level, meaning that a lot of individuals are desensitised and stopped caring about those who cannot work anymore due to illness, or those who have had disabilities all their lives. You cannot be a politician without empathy, sympathy, and knowledge, though, of what drives people, even the weakest ones in our society.

As someone who made Ireland her home back in 2002 and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 2.5 years later, I have seen the best and the worst of what happens in its politics, its greediness and its promising but not delivering. Not just once, not just twice, but over and over again.

Having a neurodegenerative illness that cannot be cured has given me the best gift I could ever ask for, strength and meeting the most inspirational and brightest people with disabilities in Ireland and abroad. Yes, they might “be different” in the eyes of many, but they showed me that not everything in life has a price or a tag. They taught me that disability is about misinterpreted ability because they help other people with or without disabilities within their communities in a time when their government shows signs of deliberate discrimination.

Martin Naughton, Ireland’s biggest advocacy star who sadly passed away last year, once said, “Recession is not a valid reason not to ratify UNCRPD” and “Having no money is not an excuse!” Knowing that Martin will never see ratification in his lifetime, now, is heartbreaking.

So please allow me to continue Martin’s legacy and nag about the UNCRPD ad nauseam a while longer. Think of all the people with disabilities who travelled up and down the country over the past few years in their wheelchairs, filled with pain medication and fatigued beyond measure just to ask government officials that one question once again, “When will ratification happen?” They skipped medical appointments and birthdays to take on matters of the Justice and Equality Department and they learned what they could to be able to enter meaningful dialogue and discussions about human rights when Dáil Éireann didn’t.

Isn’t it time then to be honest with the one group of people who have waited for a decade for the government to accept its role in all the hurt, disgust and embarrassment they created in their lives? We know that a country doesn’t have to get their house in order before ratifying the Convention, which in fact, every other country ratified and then cleaned up their disability laws.

Why does Dáil Éireann want to act high and mighty, so, over a community that is so much stronger than many believe? Our patience has bloody well all but disappeared, but our dignity will reign longer than that of any politician who continues to refuse to enact proper human rights.

To tweet about this, please use the following hashtags

@UN_Enable  #UNCRPD #CRPD #CRPD10 

#strongerthanms @MSIRELAND

Further reading

Own blog

  1. UNCRPD – Getting Ready to Ratify (1)
  2. UNCRPD – Getting Ready to Ratify (2)
  3. UNCRPD – The Right on Participation in Political and Public Life
  4. Disability rights in Ireland
  5. Disability rights in Ireland, three years later
  6. The sorry state of neurology in Ireland
  7. The sorry state of neurology in Ireland, one year on
  8. Disable Inequality campaign
  9. Irish public transport: access all areas?
  10. Disability is never cured with one pill alone

My UNCRPD Posts for the MS Society

  1. Access to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  2. United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities
  3. The General Election- One MSer’s Perspective
  4. Budget 2016 

©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2017. 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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