Charity calls for 'lunatics' term to be removed from Irish law

An Irish charity that supports people with intellectual disabilities has called for an end to the use of the term 'lunatics' in Irish law to describe people with intellectual disabilities or mental health problems.

Inclusion Ireland said despite repeated promises of change the term was still used in Irish law.

It wants the Republic's 1871 Lunacy Act and the Ward of Court system reformed.

The charity said there was an urgent need to reform this long outdated law.

Chief executive Paddy Connolly said: "This is not an old law that has no affect on people in modern Ireland.

"Every week Inclusion Ireland receives calls from people who have been severely adversely affected by this law.

"People with an intellectual disability, serious mental health problems, dementia and acquired brain injury are all affected by this law, which takes away a person's right to make decisions about their life.

"The Lunacy Act allows for the Ward of Court system, which means that for someone who has been made a 'Ward of Court', the court makes all decisions about their lives, from medical and money decisions, to leaving the country and marrying."

Mr Connolly said Ireland was "behind" every other European country in this area.

"While other countries allow for people to be supported to make decisions, Ireland takes all rights away from the person and the court imposes a decision on them.

"We need to move away from the paternalistic stance of looking after what we decide are people's 'best interests', and move towards recognising a person's right to make decisions about their own lives, and to enable them to be supported to make decisions.

"The government says that without modern capacity law Ireland cannot ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which we signed up to nearly six years ago.

"Modern law in this area was promised since 2008 by the previous government, and the current coalition committed to modern capacity law in their 2011 Programme for Government."

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