About the conference

The NDA Annual Conference 2021 focused on the theme of realising Article 12 of the UNCRPD (equal recognition before the law) through the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015. Article 12 of the UNCRPD obliges States Parties to recognise that persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with other persons and to take all appropriate measures to provide persons with disabilities with the support they need to make decisions. Article 12 also seeks to ensure safeguards exist to promote the will and preferences of the person, and to protect against undue influence and conflicts of interest. Finally, it commits States Parties to take measures to ensure the equal right of persons with disabilities to own or inherit property and to control their own financial affairs.

The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 is an innovative and progressive piece of legislation, which seeks to move away from a medical model interpretation of capacity, to a social model that embraces the person’s right to make their own decisions, and confirms the state’s obligation to ensure they are supported to do so. It abolishes wardship, establishes different levels of supported decision-making and promotes the practice of advance planning. Not only will it change the lives of thousands of people in Ireland, it has also garnered much attention from other jurisdictions, who will watch its implementation closely.

While the legislation was enacted in 2015, it had not commenced as of October 2021. However, much work had been ongoing, in order to prepare for its implementation. This included the establishment of the Decision Support Service, the drafting of statutory Codes of Practice, the development of training materials for health and social care professionals, legal professionals and financial professionals, and the drafting of amending legislation.

The legislation is due to commence in mid-2022, and while awareness-raising of the legislation and its implications have been ongoing for the last few years, the NDA believed that it was appropriate to feature the legislation as the focus of its Annual Conference 2021. The conference took a holistic view of all the implications of the legislation, by bringing together all relevant stakeholders, including professionals who are preparing to implement the legislation and individuals whose lives will be impacted by it. The conference also featured a panel of international experts, discussing the opportunities and challenges faced in their respective jurisdictions by those attempting to implement similar legislation and/or practice.

Annual Conference 2021

The following are the recorded sessions of the 2021 Annual Conference, which was fully online.

Plenary Session

The plenary session included:

  • Welcome: Helen Guinan, Chairperson, National Disability Authority, Dr Aideen Hartney, Director, National Disability Authority
  • Ministerial Address: Roderic O’Gorman T.D., Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
  • Equal Recognition before the Law (Article 12) under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Setting the Bar: Rosemary Kayess, Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • Supported Decision-Making in South America: The Success of DPO-driven Change: Alberto Vasquez, Disability Rights Advocate and Lawyer, Senior Advisor at Centre for Inclusive Policy

Panel Discussion #1: The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015: A holistic overview of its impact on stakeholders

The first panel discussion included an introduction on 'The Role of the Decision Support Service under the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015', by Áine Flynn, Director, Decision Support Service.

The Panel discussion on the impact of the Act on its stakeholders, was chaired by Patricia Rickard Clarke (Chairperson, Safeguarding Ireland). The panel included:

  • Alice White (Registrar of Wards of Court)
  • Patricia Hickey (General Solicitor for Minors and Wards of Court)
  • Bernice Evoy (Head of Legal and Regulatory, Banking and Payments Federation Ireland)
  • Caoimhe Gleeson (National Programme Manager, HSE National Office for Human Rights and Equality Policy)
  • Louise Loughlin (National Manager, National Advocacy Service)
  • Gary Lee (Solicitor, Ballymun Community Law Centre)

Annual Conference 2021: Panel Discussion #2: Lessons from other Jurisdictions

The afternoon session of the conference included an opening address from Anne Rabbitte, T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Disability. The panel discussion, chaired by Professor Eilionóir Flynn (Director, Centre for Disability Law and Policy, National University of Ireland, Galway) on 'Lessons from other Jurisdictions' included contributions from;

  • England and Wales: Alex Ruck Keene (Barrister, writer and educator)
  • Sweden: Maths Jesperson (Founder and Board member of PO-Skane)
  • USA: Jonathan Martinis (Senior Director for Law and Policy, Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University)

Annual Conference 2021: Panel Discussion #3: Hopes for the legislation from individuals whose lives will be impacted

Chaired by Aisling Glynn, Solicitor and NDA Board member, this panel discussion focused on 'Hopes for the legislation from individuals whose lives will be impacted' and included contributions from;

  • Joe McGrath (Steering Group member, National Platform for Self-Advocates)
  • Helen Rochford-Brennan (Chair, Irish Dementia Working Group and member of the European Working Group of People with Dementia)
  • Michael Ryan (Head of HSE Mental Health Engagement and Recovery Office)
  • John Dunne (Chief Executive, Family Carers Ireland)

The closing address was given by Ms Justice Mary Irvine, President of the High Court.

You can review the Conference programme and the speaker biographies below.

Annual Conference 2021: Meet the Speakers

Word (2021)


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Annual Conference 2021: Programme

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