IFA concerned about civil partnership


THE IRISH Farmers Association has raised major concerns about provisions in the Civil Partnership Bill which would create legal liabilities including possible rights to land and property for couples living together for longer than three years.

IFA president John Bryan said he was concerned that the Bill’s provisions on cohabitation were neither widely known nor understood and were creating rights and obligations in an area where there had been little or no debate.

“I believe it would be a cause of serious concern to the farming community that legal claims for the transfer of a property, a lump sum, maintenance payments or a share in pension entitlements or a claim on an estate could arise following the ending of a relationship between a couple living together for as little as three years,” Mr Bryan said.

“This means people previously living together would find themselves open to maintenance and property claims quite similar to those arising following a marriage break-up with the potential also for costly legal disputes and court proceedings.”

It was unsatisfactory the provisions were buried within the Bill, he added, because the title was a misnomer which had deflected public interest and debate from the cohabitants provisions which had far-reaching consequences for more than 120,000 cohabiting couples.

“Insofar as the general public has any understanding of the Bill, this relates only to the introduction of civil partnerships for same sex couples and not to the substantial legal liabilities that would arise for cohabiting couples throughout the State,” Mr Bryan said.

“The provisions relating to cohabitants have the makings of bad law and the Government would be unwise to proceed with this part of the Bill in the absence of proper public debate and scrutiny on the airwaves and in the media generally.”

“The fact that legal liabilities are being imposed on couples living together, who have chosen not to enter into a legal commitment through marriage, is a very substantial change in the law.

“The proposed legislation presumes that such legal liabilities are accepted by cohabiting couples after three years, without their express agreement. This is a major change in social policy, for which there is no evidence of strong public support or strong campaigning by cohabiting couples.”

Mr Bryan said that couples getting married expressly undertook legal obligations to each other.

“If couples living together wish to establish a legal relationship, then provision could be made to allow them to do so but to foist legal liabilities upon them after three years without their express consent is inappropriate and uncalled for,” he said.

“The provision of an opt-out clause, whereby people living together would have to engage solicitors, get legal advice and make a legal agreement about their financial affairs is entirely unsatisfactory and unrealistic.

“In this and other respects this Bill will be a happy hunting ground for lawyers,” said Mr Bryan.