Historic Hearing in US Senate on UN Disability Treaty

We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Professor Gerard Quinn Director of the Centre for Disability Law & Policy at NUI Galway.

A historic hearing took place yesterday (Thursday, July 11th) in the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.  The issue before the Committee was US ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  In the US system the Senate must gives its ‘advice and consent’ before the Federal Government can ratify a treaty.  A two thirds majority vote is needed from the full Senate before the Administration can proceed to ratification.  This is an exceedingly high bar but, especially after yesterday, it looks likely to be met.  It is now almost a foregone conclusion that the Committee – chaired by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass) – will commend a positive vote to the full Senate.

This really matters not just for the US but also for the rest of the world.  And it would certainly up the ante for Irish ratification.  The traditional bi-partisan approach of the US Congress was splendidly exemplified in opening remarks made to the Committee by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).  The symbolism of their joint appearance spoke volumes about the natural reflex of both parties in favour of the civil rights of persons with disabilities.  Indeed, both of them relayed the support of former President H W Bush as well as former Senator Bob Dole.  This immediately took the issue out of the cauldron of partisan politics and placed it where it should be – as matter of high principle. Continue reading “Historic Hearing in US Senate on UN Disability Treaty”

Historic Hearing in US Senate on UN Disability Treaty

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates its 21st birthday

Today the Americans with Disabilities Act celebrates its 21st birthday. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 1990 was a pioneering law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and enshrined in law the concept of equality for persons with disabilities and it has been hugely influential in shaping anti-discrimination law across the world. The ADA represented a significant landmark in the disability rights movement, it was the culmination of a civil society movement across the United States that fought hard to remove barriers that prevented persons with disabilities participating within their communities and society.  The ADA has a wide-ranging scope extending to state and local governments, employers, and to the public and private spheres in the supply of goods and services.  Not to overstate the point but the ADA went beyond the traditional concepts of anti-discrimination law in enshrining the concept of reasonable accommodation in the legislation. Reasonable accommodation requires the removal of barriers that restrict Continue reading “The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates its 21st birthday”

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates its 21st birthday

Homeless Election Candidates, Dirty Tricks & Rupture in American Politics?

The question of populism and radical change has re-emerged in American politics, first with Obama and now with the tea party movement. However, it was another story that recently caught my eye. The New York Times carried a story about Republican ‘agents’ (or ‘operatives’) encouraging homeless people to stand unopposed in the Green Party primaries. Because the green party do not have sufficient coverage to stand centrally selected candidates for all ballots, homeless people have gained the nomination to stand for local government. Beyond the curiosity of the story, I want to argue that it is more significant and revealing than it might initially seem. Continue reading “Homeless Election Candidates, Dirty Tricks & Rupture in American Politics?”

Homeless Election Candidates, Dirty Tricks & Rupture in American Politics?

On This Day

On November 19, 1920, an event took place which has some resonance for current discussions on American foreign policy and transitional justice. Hearings of an American Commission to Investigate the Irish Question opened in Washington. The Commission was intended to conduct an ‘impartial inquiry’ into conditions in Ireland. Evidence was taken from, among others, the poet Padraic Colum. The Commission heard that, at the time, an ‘orgy of destruction [was] ravishing Ireland’ and that the rule of law was ‘virtually suspended’ . The Commission also heard evidence on aspirations for Ireland’s future government.

The ancient Brehon laws, from which many of the present-day socialist doctrines are derived, Mr. [Laurence] Ginnell [pictured above] said, probably will form the basis for Ireland’s form of government should the efforts of the republican leaders to gain independence from Britain prove successful. He told the committee that he had written a book on socialism, obtaining his material from these laws.

The English reaction to the Commission was markedly hostile; the London Globe called its establishment ‘damned impudence’. Noting the position of African Americans in the Southern states, and observing that the United States had a homicide rate ‘surpassing even that of Turkey’, the Globe concluded by saying that ‘[w]hen we want American advice on the Government of Ireland we will ask for it’. Sir Edward Carson declined to testify before the Commission, saying that he considered it an unwarranted interference in the affairs of a foreign friendly state.  The publications of the Commission are detailed here and here.

On This Day