This is ‘Say No to Ageism’ Week 2007 – II

Say No to Ageism week poster via Equality AuthoritySome updates to yesterday’s post.

First, yesterday did indeed see the Irish launch of the European Healthy Ageing Project 2004-2007‘s report on Healthy Ageing – a Challenge for Europe (pdf). According to a piece by Fiona Gartland in today’s Irish Times (sub req’d):

Irish people have a shorter life expectancy than people in other wealthy EU countries, a European report on healthy ageing has found. Healthy Ageing – A Challenge for Europe, launched in Dublin yesterday, said that countries with high gross domestic product (GDP) usually have longer life expectancy, but this was not the case in Ireland. …

Dr Paula Gilvarry, president of the Irish Medical Organisation, said Ireland has higher than EU-average death rates from circulatory diseases, cancer and respiratory diseases. “The figures show that we are still playing catch-up in terms of investment in health,” she said.

Second, making good on the promise in the Programme for Government to designate a Minister of State for Older People who will be a member of the cabinet committee on social inclusion, in the annoucement of Ministers of State yesterday, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) announced his intention to appoint Máire Hoctor (Fianna Fáil site | personal site) as Minister of State for Older People in the Department of Health and Children with additional appointments in the Department of Social and Family Affairs, and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, (in succession to Seán Power (Fianna Fáil site), who becomes Minister for State for Equality Issues in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform). At present, legislation provides for [only / as many as – choose as appropriate] 17 Ministers of State, but yesterday’s announcement brings that number up to 20, which means that amending legislation will be necessary to provide for the additional three, one of whom is Máire Hoctor. I don’t think this is a slight on the importance of older people’s issues; rather, I think that the identities of the three awaiting legislation are more a function of their being incoming first-time junior ministers (who can afford to cool their heels a little longer rather) than because of any lack of importance of the roles they will have once appointed. Anyway, the amendment is straightforward, and should take very little legislative time to achieve. As Deaglán de Bréadún puts it in today’s Irish Times (sub req’d), “Máire Hoctor, one of only two women on the list [the other is Mary Wallace], has a challenging but potentially rewarding assignment in promoting the rights and interests of older people”. I wish her well in this serious and demanding, but doubtless exciting and (one hopes) fruitful, task.

Third, even as Daithí was explaining that the House of Lords have held (here and here) that nursing homes to which local authorities had contracted-out were not “public authorities” subject to the Human Rights Act 1998 (incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the Ombudsman was drawing attention to an Irish context in which the same kind of questions arise. The UK’s Act applies to “public authorities”, now restrictively construed. The Irish Act (the European Convention on Human Rights Act, 2003 (here and here) applies only to “organ of the State” (see s1 (definition: it includes “any … body established by law”) and s3(1)), which might be even more restrictively construed than the UK provision. At the launch of her office’s Annual Report yesterday (Report | press release | Irish Times), Emily O’Reilly drew attention to the fact of the recent creation of 450 “single purpose” agencies to fulfil functions once covered by Government ministers and their departments. Not only are many of them beyond the remit of the Ombudsman, but – in the light of the recent UK developments – I wonder how many might also be beyond the protection of the 2003 Act?

Update (22 June 2007): ElderLaw Prof Blog drew on the Guardian for their reaction to the House of Lords case:

Campaigners reacted with anger today to a ruling that residents of private care homes are not covered by human rights law. The decision … came in the case of an 83-year-old Alzheimer’s patient whose lawyers argued that her threatened eviction from a private home would violate her right to family life. … Kate Jopling, head of public affairs at Help the Aged, said today’s decision was “a sickening blow to older people and their families”. …