The publication today of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013 is a welcome development, said a working group of civil society organisations (full list at the bottom of the release).
Áine Hynes, Chair of the Irish Mental Health Lawyers Association, said: “This Bill will replace the long outdated Lunacy Act of 1871. The Government has cited the lack of up-to-date, human rights compliant decision-making legislation as a primary reason for not fully adopting UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)*. The legal right of everyone to make decisions for themselves (legal capacity) is contained in the Convention, meaning that people with disabilities have exactly the same decision-making rights as the rest of us, and we hope to see that fully reflected in the Bill.”
Prof Gerard Quinn, Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy Centre, NUI Galway, said: “We will be reviewing the Bill in detail in the coming days. We welcome the inclusion of ‘will and preferences’ in the guiding principles, showing an important commitment towards respecting the rights of people to make their own decisions. However there is a need to strengthen this principle in the substantive sections of the Act to ensure respect for human rights.
“It is also crucial that the government provides a timeline for the reform of other areas of law affected by legal capacity but exempted from this Bill, for example, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 and the Juries Act 1976, among others.”
Fiona Crowley, Research and Legal Manager, Amnesty International Ireland, said: “Ultimately we hope this vitally important legislation will meet the UN Convention’s standards. We also hope to see Ireland ratify the Convention without further delay.”
Orla Barry, Director of Mental Health Reform, added: “It is important that the same standards on decision-making capacity applies to people who fall under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 2001.”
Civil society organisations
Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland
Amnesty International Ireland
Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway
Disability Federation of Ireland
Irish Mental Health Lawyers Association
Mental Health Reform
Neurological Alliance of Ireland
St Patrick’s University Hospital
*Ireland is one of just three EU member states yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The other two are Finland and the Netherlands.
In 2012, 15 non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International, the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway, the Disability Federation of Ireland, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Inclusion Ireland (among others) published a document entitled the Essential Principles: Irish Legal Capacity Law. This was based on best international practice, international human rights standards and on the guiding principles of the CRPD.