Guillotining of Bill described as outrageous


SEANAD REPORT:THE GUILLOTINING of the debate on the Civil Partnership Bill was outrageous and an attack on democracy, Rónán Mullen (Ind) asserted.

However Seanad leader Donie Cassidy defended the decision on the basis that there had been “repetition after repetition and filibuster after filibuster”.

The Bill was passed by 48 votes to four.

Eugene Regan (FG) said he did not like the notion of guillotining any debate, but this one had developed into an exercise in absurdity. It had become meaningless and futile due to arguments which did not relate to tabled amendments.

“We have to do something to curtail this debate and bring it to finality.”

David Norris (Ind) said it was noteworthy that Senators Rónán Mullen (Ind) and Feargal Quinn (Ind) were opposing 64 sections of the Bill.

Ivana Bacik (Lab) said that no one wanted to stifle debate. “What we have seen today in the last four hours is not genuine debate but an attempt to obstruct and to filibuster the passing of this important legislation, with which the vast majority of the House are agreed.”

Mr Mullen said it did not surprise him that Mr Regan was supporting the guillotine because his party wanted to abolish the Seanad. The Government leader in the House was contributing to the contempt in which the House was held by so many members of the public. He did not like the arguments that were being made, so he was closing down the debate, and Fine Gael and Labour seemed to be complicit in that.

Mr Norris (Ind) said it was a truly historic day.

A Labour member complained that a disproportionate amount of time had been spent on just one amendment to the Bill.

The amendment in the names of Mr Mullen and Mr Quinn, which was debated for more than 2½ hours, was condemned by Alex White (Labour) as an attempt to attack and undermine the very basis of the legislation. The proposal sought to enable registrars to rely on sincerely-held religious or ethical beliefs to refuse to be involved in the registration of marriage or civil partnership.

The amendment was put by the leas cathaoirleach Paddy Burke and was deemed to have been lost while Mr Mullen was calling a point of order.

Mr Mullen said he was hurt by claims the the amendment had been motivated by homophobia.

He said sometimes it was necessary in a pluralistic society to allow people who had a genuine conscience problem to continue to function as State officials in certain situations and yet be allowed to conform with their own ethos and morality.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern opposed the amendment, saying it made no sense that if a law was passed individuals should be allowed to have an a la carte approach to its implementation.