Sunday, July 05, 2009

 

Civil Partnership Bill is a first-step

The long-awaited Civil Partnership Bill was finally published by the Government. I spoke about it in the Seanad on Tuesday. I see it as a first step along the way. It provides for rights in relation to Power of Attorney, Next of Kin and inheritance. It doesn’t deal with issues in relation to tax matters or social welfare matters. The government has said that these will be dealt with separately in the next Finance Bill at the end of the year. We will keep the pressure on to make sure they deliver on that.

What it doesn’t address is the issue of children and adoption. That’s something of a disappointment and no doubt we (the Labour Party) will have to address this when we next get into government. Overall the Bill received a mixed reaction. Some campaigners were upset, arguing that “you can’t have a little bit of equality”. Personally I am surprised that the government has even gone this far. For a party that has filleted the Equality Authority I am surprised that they have even started down the road. I thought that they would kick this to touch.

It’s nearly the end of the Dail & Seanad session and as a result of that there are many piece of legislation that need to be completed. We sat into the evenings on a few occasions during the week and I fully expect that we will be doing so again in the coming week. Unfortunately, if legislation is too rushed then mistakes can be made, so that’s something we have to particularly watch out for.

On Tuesday I spoke on the Criminal Justice Surveillance Bill, and on the Broadcasting Bill, On Wednesday I spoke on the Local Government Charges Bill. All of the media pressure managed to convince the government to change their mind on the Mobile Home charges, a decision I welcomed – I had tabled an amendment in relation to this. I also made the point that the money raised from the Bill must not be seen by the government as an excuse to reduce its funding in local authorities. I also made the same point the next morning on LMFM radio.

Some people pointed this out as an example of how the Seanad serves a purpose as a check on legislation, to allow changes, amendments and corrections to be made to draft Bills. I felt that the instance here was an exception, rather than the rule. It was more because the legislation was rushed that the Minister had to make amendments, rather than a desire by him to involve Senators in the drafting of the legislation.

On Thursday I brought up the issue of the new EPA report on Sewerage plants. It shows that there is chronic underinvestment in sewerage plants and that further work needs to be done in training and upskilling of workers within the plants. I called for the Minister to use his authority to improve the situation. Only one County – Longford – fully complies with EU Standards.

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