05 November, 2007

Civil Partnership

Not an easy week, and that was before I saw Una Mullally's piece in the Tribune yesterday. It started of fine with Noel Dempsey's 'L-turn' on the provisional licenses, but Labour's push on their Civil Union Bill on Tuesday put us all under pressure.

The only consolation is that we'll see the heads of legislation on Civil Partnership by the Spring. Do I want to go further? Of course I do. The Green Party's Marriage Policy states that we want to make all terms connected to marriage gender neutral, thus permitting same-sex marriage. That's still what I want to see. Did we get this written into the Programme for Government? Nope.

The views I had before the election haven't changed. However political reality means that the members of the Government Parties vote together: week in, week out. If we do that, we get to enact what we put into that Programme. Sometimes, and it's not that often, we can go further. Would it be any different had we stayed out? I think it would. - I doubt that we would have the March 20098 date for the Heads of the Bill.

I was pleased with Charlie O'Connor's speech. He is a Fianná Fáil TD for Dublin, and he stated:
"I am not in favour of a watered down or lesser status union for same sex partners. There is a major difference in the status of same sex cohabiting couples and heterosexual or sibling cohabitees. The latter can, if they are single, marry under Irish law but gay couples cannot."

However I was concerned when Deputy Martin Mansergh, a Fianná Fáil TD for Tipperary started talking about costs to the revenue, and the red herring of what he termed "interesting clashes between a radical equality ethos and the ethos of the vast majority of our schools", though I nodded in agreement when he accused Fine Gael of making tedious and repetitious jibes at the Green Party for not remaining in pristine opposition. Martin concluded by stating that we need detailed, workable legislation that addresses all the issues and the wide variety of situations equitably.

I'm constantly surprised at the inability of the legislature to keep pace with social change. A Sunday Tribune poll in October last year showed that: "64% . . . support the right of same-sex couples to equal financial and legal rights as heterosexual married couples", and 37% believed that gay couples should be allowed to adopt. Meanwhile, when I sat on the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution in the last Dáil discussing family rights if felt like drawing blood from a stone to get a minority report agreed that suggested that the following section be added to Article 41 of the Constitution:
"The state also recognises and respects family life not based on marriage. All persons, irrespective of their marital status, have a right to family life. The Oireachtas is entitled to legislate for the benefit of such families and of their individual members.

What I found most difficult to defend last week was the Attorney-General's advice that the Labour Party Bill could be unconstitutional. I hate standing over documents that I haven't had sight of, but that's the joy of being a back-bencher.

At this stage we have the reports: The All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution's Report on The Family and the Domestic Partnerships Working Paper, and the Law Reform Commission's Report on the Rights and Duties of Cohabitants. I'll be writing to Lenihan today, to try and ensure that the timetable stay on track.

I still can't get the Nina Simone track 'Mississippi Goddam' about people saying 'go slow' out of my head, but at least I can keep reminding myself that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed the year after Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech on the mall.


Charlotte Robinson said...

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Barry said...

Unfortunately, Ciaran, your comments are not true.

This is not an issue like the others on which you have had understandably to compromise in coalition. First of all, it is a basic question of equality; now you are going to support a bill which entrenches this inequality in law. Second of all, a Labour-type bill is backed not only by the Colley report, but also by a majority of Fianna Fail T.D.s and supporters. If you really wanted equal status for gay unions in the bill, you could get it. What's clear to gay people and our allies is that the Greens may want this equality, but you don't want it enough.

I am a gay man who has voted and campaigned for the Greens in the last three elections. I took you at your word on gay equality and gave you my trust. I feel deeply and irreparably betrayed, not by your voting against an opposition bill, but by your support for a Government alternative which gives full legal standing to inequality for gay people.

I will actively campaign against your candidacy in my constituency of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown at the next election.

Unknown said...

Last Wednesday, for the first time ever, an Irish Government accepted the principle of legislating for civil partnerships and committed to quickly bringing forward proposals on this issue, based on the Colley Report.
As far as I'm concerned, this is major progress and something that we in the Green Party should be proud of.

Ciarán said...


Thanks for campaigning for the Greens in the last three elections. I'm not sure if we've met.

The Programme for Government states:

"Civil Partnerships
This Government is committed to full equality for all in our society. Taking account
of the options paper prepared by the Colley Group and the pending Supreme Court case, we will legislate for Civil Partnerships at the earliest possible date in the lifetime
of the Government."

That's where we're at at the moment. Do you really think we'd be further down the road if the Greens weren't part of this Government?

Have a look at the Green Party Policy Document prepared by Roderick O'Gormnan and others, and I'd challenge you to show me any other political party's policy that goes further than we do.

If a majority of Fianna Fail T.D.s backed a Labour party Bill, then we would have had a very different response from the Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan last week surely.


Anonymous said...

Ciarán, I spoke to you on the phone last Thursday and you seem completely obsessed with the programme for Government. When Labour where in Government with FF they had the guts to stand up for equality for the gay community. I asked you a question then, which I will ask again now, other than your reduction in climate change what else have you got out of this programme for Government? You and your party have collective responsibility in this Government and you and your party voted for inequality. If you had any moral conviction you would have went against FF / PD policy on this. Who is lobbying so hard against Gay marriage in FF, why dont you come out and tell us. Please dont patronise us any further by pretending to support the gay community on this and using the US Civil Rights movement in your blog. Do I think we would be further down the road if the Greens weren't in Government? No I think we would be in the exact same position, I dont believe you will put any pressure on FF to enact any type of legislation, which as David Norris has said will amount to no more than a dog license. But one thing is for sure, if your party had have had the guts last week to vote with Labour rather than vote for inequality and discrimination we would be a lot further down the road. Since getting into Government, your party has also sold out the Rossport 5, the anti-war movement, Hill of Tara campaigners, anti-incinarator campaigners etc. I have voted for your party so many times in the past, mainly because on those issues, I will never ever vote for you again, the gay community will not forget this. I really hope your vote collapses at the next election. One last thing, why bother going out and saving a world when you allow discrimination and inequality to flourish.

Unknown said...

Where is the heads of Bill - why is Brian Cowewn saying that today the heads of bill are still being drafted?

Anonymous said...

I cannot help but feel as a t.d. you should be representing all your people and not only the minority. It is without doubt that Gays have suffered inequalities, but there are more and bigger inequalties in this issue in family law and the publin representive have allowed a opportunity pass them by, by not widening their point of view and dealing only with Gay rights. Indeed it can argued that this civil partnership bill creates rather than lessen inequalities.