(2 March 2021)
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has said the pandemic has shown that older people living in residential care are not getting the protection and care they need. And it’s clear that there are problems in other residential settings, such as Direct Provision, as well.
ICCL, Age Action and Sage Advocacy believe the solution to this is independent, human rights-focused inspections. The government is talking about such a system, but it’s essential that residential institutions and care homes are included. Ireland’s sad history in this regard shows us why this is so important.
ICCL’s Executive Director Liam Herrick said:
“"The story of human rights in Ireland over the past century has been dominated by the vulnerability of people who are living in institutional and confined setting. Covid has again illustrated the need to put in place special measures to protect people who live behind closed doors. As a country, we must learn from our past and ensure that the proposed new national system of inspecting centres of detention is extended to all healthcare settings including nursing homes and residential centres."
Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said:
“The Covid-19 public health emergency has exposed the dangerous architecture on which the current system of care in congregated settings for older people is built. Ireland’s current long-term support and care system, with a high reliance on residential nursing homes is totally inadequate to safeguard older people who may be in vulnerable situations. A suite of measures, including rights-based inspections, is required to ensure the safety, dignity and rights of older people in nursing homes.”
Age Action CEO Paddy Connolly stated:
“The high rates of mortality of older people in institutional settings during this pandemic has exposed grave weaknesses in Ireland’s systems of care. Ireland’s preference for institutional models of care, where people are congregated in large numbers, are in and of themselves human rights restrictions, but also create environments for human rights abuses. We need to view and inspect these settings through a human rights lens.”
ICCL has been campaigning for 14 years for government to ratify the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). Ireland signed but did not ratify this convention in 2007, meaning it has been paying nothing but lip service to the treaty since. Ireland is one of only three EU countries that has up to now failed to ratify OPCAT. Why are we not looking after people to the same standard as most of the rest of the EU? We have to change this now.
The OPCAT obliges states to create a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to ensure people are treated humanely and with dignity. It does this through a system of independent inspectors who can make surprise visits and who can speak to anyone living in these settings. The government is then supposed to take on board any recommendations for improvements. The NPM should oversee inspections of all prisons, detention centres and residential or care institutions.