Minister of State Sean Power launches book on Older People in Modern Ireland

Posted on: 23 February 2006

‘Older People in Modern Ireland, Essays on Law and Policy’ was launched on at a reception hosted by Prof. Patrick Prendergast in The Long Room at Trinity College Dublin.  Guest of honour on the evening, which was in association with Age Action Ireland, was Mr. Sean Power, T.D., Minister of State, with responsibility for Services for Older People.

This book, the first of its kind, is both important and timely. It is important, as it is the first book to look at legal issues affecting older people in Ireland; and it is timely, as it directly addresses the two recent and still ongoing nursing home controversies. A wide range of experts comprehensively cover a broad range of topics; consequently, not only is it an essential guide to the legal issues affecting the elderly, providing definitive analysis of important issues such as the law relating to care, capacity, and wardship, but it also considers other important social, economic, political and health policy issues affecting older people in Ireland.

One theme of the book, repeated again and again in the essays, is that the implementation of government policy relating to older people has been inadequate. For example:

Prof Eamon O’Shea of the Economics Department NUIG, in his chapter “Public Policy for Dependent Older People in Ireland: Review and Reform” argues that progress being made in key policy areas – such as health and social care policy – cannot hide the fact that long-term care expenditure on older people is low, and care of older people remains in crisis.

Again, Ita Mangan, barrister and consultant on legal issues relating to older people, in her chapter on “Deficiencies of the Law Relating to Care for Older People” demonstrates that there are considerable divergences not only between the stated policy of supporting care at home and the legislation necessary to give effect to that policy but also between the stated policy and the actual policy. Moreover, she demonstrates that what legislation there is fails to meet the government’s own standards of good governance.

As a consequence, Prof Ray Kinsella of the Smurfit Graduate School of Business, UCD, and Michael Kinsella, in their chapter on “The Long Stay Care Crisis. A Case Study in Policy Failure”  argue that such failures and inadequacies result from systemic policy failures endemic in Irish public administration in general and the healthcare sector in particular.

One specific example of these failures relates to the debacle relating to long term illegal health charges, and Dr Eoin O’Dell of the School of Law, TCD, in his chpater “The Nature and Limits of Claims to Recover Unlawful Health Charges”, examine the various kinds of claims which are being made, and argues that the government’s likely attempt to deploy the Statute of Limitations, 1957, to meet some of the claims is unlikely to be successful.

Topics covered in the book include:

-Social, Economic and Legal Policy relating to Older People generally
– The Law Reform Commission’s Consultation Papers on Law and the Elderly and Legal Capacity The Law Relating to Care for Older People
– The Ombudsman
– Elder Abuse
– Mental Health Law
– Age Discrimination
– Wardship
– Incapacity: including Legal Planning for Incapacity
– Consent and Healthcare Decisions
– Legal, Social and Medical Policy relating to Nursing Homes and to Long Term Care
– Recovery of Illegal Health Charges

Editor of the book Eoin O’Dell is a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin. He lectures in Contract, Restitution and Freedom of Expression, researches and publishes primarily in the fields of private and commercial law, and has been President of the Irish Association of Law Teachers and Editor of the Dublin University Law Journal, and is editor of Leading Cases of the Twentieth Century (Round Hall, Dublin, 2000).