Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Civil Unions Bill 2007

Last Tuesday (20/02/07)and Wednesday (21/02/07) the Civil Unions Bill 2007 was debated in the Dáil. This was a Labour Party Bill, and I was proud to support it. I have been campaigning with the LGBT community for a long, long time now and I think that this Bill was an important step towards full equality.

Labour’s civil unions bill a major step towards full equality

Picture taken at the launch of the Labour Party Bill on Civil Unions which was launched in the Dail today (December 14, 2006). The following link will lead you to a statement issued by Deputy Brendan Howlin on why the Bill represents a very significant step towards the provision of full equality for gay and lesbian citizens and particular for those in same sex relationships.

I spoke and voted in favour of the Bill on Wednesday. I've attached the transcript and reprinted it here.

Sadly,frustratingly it was voted down by this government by 72 votes to 60.

Transcript from Wednesday, 21st Feb:

Shortly after I was elected to this House, the then Minister for Justice, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, introduced a Bill decriminalising homosexuality. I remember at the time being enormously impressed by her practical outlook and also by her bravery. She was one of the very few women in this House. She stepped outside the traditional mindset of her party to do something important for many of our people and also for our society. It was refreshing to see. It is dispiriting to listen to the current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who has stepped back into that murkiness of a traditional mindset. People are quite shocked and dismayed to find that he cannot do even the simple things that would be required of him in this day and age.

I congratulate Deputy Howlin on introducing this Bill. I, like other Deputies, am proud to be a member of the Labour Party tonight, but regrettably this Bill should be a matter of pride for all parties in this House. Everybody should be celebrating the passing of this Bill to ensure that people attain rights to which they are entitled. It is unbelievable that something so simple, obvious and important is being blocked in a way that is demeaning to people outside this House and people in the Gallery who are waiting to see what will happen to this Bill.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide same-sex couples with the same basic rights and duties that are available to married couples. In our society we celebrate marriage. We celebrate the idea of a stable, loving relationship that a couple set out to have in married union. Why can we not celebrate a stable, loving relationship engaged in by a same-sex couple? Is that not valid and important — two people looking after each other, two people ensuring that there is love in that relationship and that there is official recognition for that love? I know of a case where a person ended up in a psychiatric hospital and the person’s long-standing partner was not treated as a married person would have been treated. The partner was excluded from providing the normal support a couple expect from each other. This also applies where a partner of a same-sex couple is dying in hospital; God knows there is enough indignity without heaping it on.

The approach in the Bill is practical and compassionate but it is also rigorous in terms of respect. Single sex couples have an entitlement to respect. When I heard the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, speak last night it struck me forcefully that a pygmy is in charge of the Progressive Democrats. If the previous leader of the Progressive Democrats was still in her old position, I do not believe she would have let this go. Others have asked the party to stand up and stand by the Republic. I do not believe they have any conviction left in terms of their belief of what the Republic stands for and what republican values are all about. I regret that because this could have been a fine moment.

It could have been a good moment in Irish political history, as was the moment when the then Minister, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, came into this House and introduced the legislation to which I referred. She had to do that in much more difficult circumstances but she did it, and I paid tribute her for doing it at the time. We now have a Bill presented by Deputy Howlin which is robust and stands up to the tests that legal minds have applied to it. All that is failing is the political leadership that is so lacking among people who do not have the will or the commitment to support what this Republic stands for. I regret that greatly.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

SDLP canvass

Lisburn in the rain is not a cheery place although the SDLP canvass was an upbeat affair. Mark Durkan and Carmel Hannan came out onto the streets in a bid to retain Patricia Lewseley's assembly seat for Marrietta Farrell. Reaction in the market ranged from friendly to surly but the talk was about the recent confrontation at the fish stall between Ian Paisley and Bob McCarney. For once Paisley had nothing to say to McCartney's question " When did Never, Never, Never become Yes, Yes, Yes?"

By comparison, Southern politics is positively cosy. When we meet our opponents on a canvass we tend to fall on each others necks. The only exception to that rule when the candidates are both standing in the same constitunecy for Fianna Fail. Then they don't talk to each other. They snarl.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Youtube video from Labour Party Conference

You can watch my speech on the health services on youtube here

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

But, are you happy?

WELL, I am certainly happy about the response from the Labour Party one day conference last week. It was obviously the last opportunity to gather all the party together for a serious rallying of the troops! There was a great atmosphere in around the Helix in DCU where it was held, with a very varied crowd, young and old, from all around the country. Check out the pictures on Flickr.

Ireland can do better with Labour
Addressing the conference on health reform

Ireland can do better with Labour
Welcoming Gerry 'Ginger' McLaughlin to the Labour team after enjoying footage of his famous try

Yesterday we launched the "But, are you happy ?" campaign and are really trying to modernise the way we're getting our message across. Of course the policy documents and press releases are all still available on the website but maybe they don't excite everyone in the same way!

To see how high tech we've become watch this clip !

and see the campaign website here

On the eve of the conference itself, Labour TDs and new candidates met in the Helix for a talk on climate change by Duncan Stewart. Eamon Gilmore also spoke of Labour's environment polices. Since last September, Labour has been working on a Blueprint for Action on Climate Change. What in practical terms do we need to do, as a country, as a community, and as individuals to significantly reduce carbon emissions? We intend to publish that Blueprint in the near future and to use it as the basis for action on climate by Labour in Government after the General Election.
  • We will commit ourselves to new, National targets, as follows
  • To meet our existing Kyoto target of 13% + by the due date in 2012.
  • To reduce Greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 level by 2016
  • To bring greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below the 1990 level by 2020 and
To make Ireland a carbon neutral economy by 2030.
Targets alone are meaningless, unless we understand what they mean, and are acted upon. I think many people now realise that scale of the climate change problem but there are not enough yet who fully grasp the enormous scale of the response which is required.

Ireland can do better with Labour
Duncan Stewart, myself and Pat chatting before the Friday night opening of the conference

As Eamon explained, to get to the 2020 target (and this is likely to be a mandatory EU target), Ireland will need to cut its Carbon Emissions by 25 million tonnes. But what is 25 million tonnes of Carbon? Take all of the emissions from transport i.e. every car, truck, bus and train in the country - that comes to 12.5 million tonnes - so even if in the morning we could stop every emission from every mode of transport - we would still be only half way to the target!!

To reduce our carbon emissions to the levels which are necessary will require enormous courage, leadership and new thinking from the next Government. It will require the understanding, and the cooperation of individuals, and especially of those who are active in the economy.

Friday, February 02, 2007


FIRST blog update of the year! A bit slow off the mark, I think that new years swim may have been a shock to my system after all. January was busy, despite the long Dail break, with a major policy document launch last week. Raising medical card threshold from the current 28% of population to 40% of the population. And a Universal Health Insurance scheme for all under 16s - with a view to extending... It's available to read on the policy section of the website - I'd really like your feedback.

The Party Leader, Pat Rabbitte, will be visiting County Wicklow later in February. He will be touring the County with myself and meeting up with Nicky Kelly in Arklow. It's generally acknowledged Labour are in a good position to win two seats. Certainly we are looking forward to the fight.

I've been conducting a Health Survey around Wicklow but now have an online version which can be accessed and filled in at this link

You can also get more information on the Labour website homepage

Thanks for taking the time to fill in and/or letting me know your thoughts.

Oh and a belated Happy New Year!