Welfare codes under review to identify same-sex couple bias


THE DEPARTMENT of Social and Family Affairs has said it is undertaking a review of all social welfare codes, including those that may discriminate against same-sex couples.

Responding to complaints against Iarnród Éireann for enforcing rules that exclude same-sex partners from travelling free with over-66s who carry a travel pass, the department said the scheme generally only allowed the “spouse” of a person with a pass to travel free on public transport. “The definition of spouse [Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005] does not extend to partners in a same-sex couple,” a spokeswoman for the department said.

She said a review of the entire social welfare code is currently being undertaken to examine its compatibility with the Equal Status Act, 2000.

This will identify direct or indirect discrimination, on any of the nine grounds under the Equal Status Act, 2000, she said. The work is expected to be completed by early 2009.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has accused Iarnród Éireann of “profiteering from a licence to discriminate issued by the Department of Social and Family Affairs”. He said the issue highlighted the urgent need for new legislation on same sex partnerships.

An Iarnród Éireann spokesman said it had simply enforced the department’s provisions in relation to travel passes, as every travel company is required to do.