UNCRPD Summer School - Paul Fagan's brilliant article




By Paul Fagan

I had the privilege to attend this year’s 4th International Disability Summer School on the 18th June 2012. It was held over a five days in the Centre for Disability Law & Policy at NUI Galway.   The summer school was on ‘The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and attracted participants from all over the world.  People attended from various parts of Africa, Asia, North America and various parts of Europe.  This made my journey from Inishowen quite insignificant? 

Some of the key areas included in the week long programme included an insight into the convention, how the treaty maybe interpreted, .the issue of equality; certain core rights such as the right to legal capacity, the right to independent living, and the right to political participation.  It dealt with multiple discrimination on grounds, e.g., of disability, gender, age, children.  It also focused on the convention protecting people with disabilities against violence, exploitation and abuse. Another interesting area we looked at was the practical institutional changes required to give effect to the convention at a national level. As you can tell it was not a week to rest and put my feet up.

The lecturers included leading human rights lawers and accademics from all corners of the globe.  One lecturer I would like to mention is Professor Theresia Degener who is a member of the German delegation in the negotiations and member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  I remember reading one of Theresia books almost twenty years ago.  I found her lectures quite challenging and inspirational.

When I enrolled I initially I thought it would be like a busman’s holiday.  A chance to meet other like-minded people, socialise and watch the European Football competition.  Little did I realise how intensive and challenging the programme would be.  As mentioned the speakers were all leading experts in their field and all the attendees were equally qualified and led to stimulating discussions and debates.  I was very fortunate to be accompanied by Gary Lee and we were able to discuss and share issues together.

The purpose of the convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. Although Ireland is signatories to the convention they have not ratified it.  This mean the government agree with the principles of the convention but so far they have decided not to incorporate it into Irish legislation.

During the week we looked at the numerous articles within the convention.  These article covered lots of important areas including, women with disabilities, children with disabilities, accessibility, freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information to highlight a few.

The article I was particularly interested in was; Article19 which covered living independently and being included in the community.  Article 19 recognize the equal right of all people with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate  their full and their full inclusion and participation in the community.

If the convention is ratified or should I say ‘when’ the convention is ratified by the Irish government it would provide people with disabilities with a legal tool to address some of the inequalities which exist within our society.

I really enjoyed the week away and the icing on the cake was Gary being recognised as the top advocate of the summer school.  As an ex student of mine I was not surprised.  I always knew he had talent.

Máire Whelan the first female Attorney General in the history of the State presenting certificate to Gary Lee Executive Director of Center for Independent Living.

If you’re looking for that extra challenge and am willing to think outside the box than I can strongly recommend the summer school and I hope to see you next year.

For more information on the convention please look at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml


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