The Parents’ Committee of namhi hosted their annual Parents’ Seminar on Saturday 8 November 2004, at ‘Chief O’Neill’s’ in Dublin, where a packed audience discussed the subject of ‘legal capacity and decision making for people with intellectual disability’. Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell TD, opened the seminar. He acknowledged that a lot of work is needed in clarifying the issues of consent and capacity in Irish law, and he looked forward to the report of the Law Reform Commission. Ita Mangan, Patricia Rickard-Clarke and Máirín McCartney offered their considerable professional insights on the still-existing legal limbo concerning consent, guardianship and decision-making for people with limited capacity in Ireland. Ulrich Hellmann described an extensive system of legal counselling and advocacy which exists in Germany to support persons with intellectual disability and their families. Professor June Nunn highlighted the complex issues which can arise around dental treatment and oral health decisions. Dr John Hillery, President of the Medical Council, gave a forthright talk calling for his colleague medical practitioners to listen to and respect the individual needs and insights of people with disabilities and their families, and to face up to the many difficulties of consent in medical settings. Namhi member Grace O’Leary shared the experience and understandings she has gained in parenting her now adult daughter, who has a significant intellectual disability.

Once again, namhi provided an informative and thought-provoking seminar for the many members who attended. Not for the first time, they highlighted the need to resolve the many unanswered questions in Irish law around the issues of consent and the pressing need to devise some workable system of ‘assisted decision-making’ for our citizens with intellectual disability. Legal counsellors and legislators, please listen and enact wisely, but without further delay!