Ireland is at an important legal crossroads. New legislation determining legal capacity, or decision-making, is expected shortly. Get it right, and Ireland will be looked to as a world leader. Get it wrong, and the impact will be disastrous. Ireland has no excuse to get it wrong. The 2011 Programme for Government pledged new capacity legislation would be introduced in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The CRPD does not create new rights, but reaffirms that all rights belong to all people equally, including people with disabilities. The convention was adopted by the UN in December 2006. Ireland signed in 2007, but is one of only three EU countries yet to have ratified (the others being Finland and the Netherlands).

In October 2011, Ireland was before the UN, having its human rights record assessed by other member states. Asked about Ireland’s failure to ratify the convention, Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter said the lack of CRPD-compliant capacity legislation was the problem, and he would ensure it was published shortly.

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