Tuesday, 31 January 2017
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy Finian McGrath): I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
I am delighted to present this Bill to the House, the purpose of which is to amend a range of legislation so that Ireland is in a position to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The enactment of the Bill will strengthen the position of people in this section of society even further. I have long been a supporter of rights for persons with disabilities and ratification of this convention is one my own key priorities. I appreciate there are many Members of the House who are also committed to this issue and have sought the ratification of the convention for some time. It has taken longer than expected to get to this stage and I am disappointed we were not in a position to ratify by the end of 2016, as we had committed to do in A Programme for a Partnership Government. However, the Bill before us will, when enacted, bring about changes to a range of legislation that will have a real effect on the lives of persons with disabilities.
The ratification of the convention is the first action listed in the soon to be published National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2011-2020. The process to get to this point has been complex and drawn out. I accept the criticisms of colleagues in this regard. It has been difficult to deal with the many complex issues. However, when we ratify, we will be doing so in the knowledge there is no legislation on the Statute Book that contradicts the convention, as is the case in some other countries. It is essential that the State is in a position to meet the obligations it assumes under the terms of any international agreement from the moment of its entry into force for Ireland. For us, ratification is the end of the preparation and implementation process, not the beginning. That was a crucial aspect of our preparations in bringing forward this Bill.