Bill's success shows 'society's maturity'

 

THE PASSAGE of the Civil Partnership Bill shows how Irish society has changed for the better, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said yesterday as he launched the publication of the Seanad debates on the issue.

The 38 speeches, made over two days, were published by Glen, the gay and lesbian equality network, “to celebrate and mark what is a historic law reform for lesbian, gay and bisexual people”, its chairman Kieran Rose said.

The Bill, approved by the Seanad by 48 votes to four, will provide rights to gay and lesbian couples in the areas of property, social welfare, succession, pensions and tax.

Mr Ahern said it was the epitome of a Christian and pluralist society that such legislation was brought forward. “It was a good day for the Oireachtas and indeed it was a good day for Irish society generally.” He said some objections to the Bill were the antithesis of being Christian.

“I think we all have to live with each other as best we can. Of course people would like the ideal – as they regard their own definition of what ideal is – but we have to deal with reality.”

While four senators voted against the Bill, Mr Ahern said he didn’t think he had ever seen so much agreement on any subject he had brought before the Oireachtas.

“But again I think that shows the maturity of how our society has changed fairly dramatically.”

Mr Rose said the quality of the Seanad debate on the Bill was “a strong rebuttal of the corrosive cynicism about politics that can be all too present in Irish society”.

He recalled that there was loud applause from the senators and a standing ovation from the public gallery when the Cathaoirleach announced that the Bill was now to go to the President, Mary McAleese, for approval.

“It was a moment of great emotion, of great achievement and great relief.” Mr Rose said there were still some serious gaps in the legislation but he was confident that they would be addressed.

Mr Ahern said the Government was now keen to bring forward the necessary legislation in the social welfare and taxation areas as quickly as possible.

“We want this Bill to commence when those pieces of legislation are in place so that everything just kicks in at the one time.”

He said this work was going on as he spoke, and the social welfare legislation was almost finalised.