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Ireland must support human rights for older people

Lianne Murphy, Ageing & Development Officer, Age Action
Written by: Lianne Murphy
Ageing and Development Officer, Age Action


This week (14-16 July) UN members states are meeting in New York to discuss the rights of older people.

With numbers of older people rising rapidly globally Age Action is behind a new international convention on the rights of older people.

The Open Ended Working Group on Ageing is the UN process where the need for a new international convention on the rights of older people is being discussed. This is their sixth meeting. The first one took place in 2011.

With numbers of older people rising rapidly both here in Ireland and globally we in Age Action think that a new international convention on the rights of older people is the most effective way to ensure that all people can enjoy their human rights in older age on an equal basis with others.

Currently older people’s rights are invisible in the international human rights system.

While many international human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,  are universal by nature, older people are rarely mentioned specifically, either in the treaties themselves or by the committees who monitor compliance.

In addition only four out of more than 38,000 recommendations in the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review have specifically addressed discrimination against older people.

A new convention could change this.

This week in New York, those governments supporting the convention will outline exactly what they want to see and what rights need to be protected, such as the right to long-term support for independent living and the right to freedom from violence and abuse.

Unfortunately, Ireland is not one of these governments. While they have been broadly supportive of the process and a wider discussion on the rights of older people, they do not support a Convention for older people.

While it is important that Ireland continues to support the UN process, we believe older people in Ireland deserve better from their government.

They deserve a government that takes them seriously and supports a new convention to protect their human rights on a par with others.



I would like to see the support agencies for older persons to take a serious and urgent look at how older people are treated by HSE paid Carer in their home. I am referring specifically with family members who abuse the system. They like to take the financial assistance but do not look after their loved ones in a just manner. If there is supervision,carers know in advance and create a god impression for that day.Also,why does public care services finish at 5pm ,and no service at w/ends?.When are we going to get proper rights for older persons?

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Raising the Roof - Homes for All Ages

Raise the Roof Rally for Housing 18 May

Preparing to Raise the Roof

Age Action, motivated by intergenerational solidarity, is joining the Raise the Roof campaign to tackle the continuing housing crisis that is affecting people of all ages.  People are being mobilised through trade unions and community organisations, to stage a major national rally on the housing crisis under the banner of Raise the Roof, in Dublin on Saturday May 18.

When people take an interest in what is happening in their local community, seek solutions to problems and initiate improvements they are being active citizens. Community is the foundational building block of society and housing is fundamental to community. Ireland’s housing crisis is rightly dominating public discourse as it undermines our ability to live with dignity as part of a community.  Ireland’s changing demographic brings with it a changing demand for homes that meet the needs of an ageing population.

The Government’s failure to deliver on a whole of Government approach to ageing and provide good quality social housing to meet demand has resulted in older people feeling subjected to negative, ageist language about their needs and wishes for suitable housing and health supports as is evidenced in the narrative on ‘down-sizing’ or ‘right-sizing’.

In the 60s and 70s the State implemented policies to support owner occupation of housing. People on lower incomes were able to buy their own homes which went some way to addressing wealth inequalities. According to Professor Tony Fahey, writing in Social Justice Ireland’s book ‘From Here to Where?’, by the year 2000 even low-income households owned substantial housing wealth and were less disadvantaged by inequalities in housing wealth than they were by inequalities in income.

Most of the growing population of young private renters today grew up in homes that were owned by their parents. Prof Fahey identified the essential features of secure long-term housing as being affordable, and having secure tenure. As he says, “today’s private rented housing has neither of these features”.

Looking at the future needs of an ageing population, for those aged 50-54 almost 10% were renting from private landlords at the time of Census 2016. It can be assumed that these people will continue in the rental market beyond their working years which leaves them in a vulnerable situation.

We encourage any and all of you who can to be active citizens and march with us on Saturday May 18 in a show of intergenerational solidarity. We will be gathering at 1pm at Parnell Square. You will find us behind an Age Action banner. At 2pm we will march down O'Connell Street towards Custom House Quay and join the Rally for Housing (location to be confirmed) by 3pm.

For more information about the campaign visit