The Convention on the Constitution and Same-Sex Marriage – This is Only The Beginning

Same Sex Marriage
Same Sex Marriage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s vote at the Convention on the Constitution was an amazing step on the road to Same Sex Marriage in Ireland. The overwhelming support from the convention to changing the Constitution is certainly something to bolster those campaigning for Same Sex Marriage. A huge well done to GLEN, MarriagEquality and the ICCL on their presentations and everyone that took part in the panel discussions in favour of Same Sex Marriage.

The details of the vote and results are as follows:

The Convention decided to recommend that the Constitution be changed to allow for civil marriage for same-sex couples by:

  • Yes – 79%
  • No – 19%
  • No opinion – 1%

The members of the Convention were also asked what form the amendment should take. Delegates were given the option of voting that the amendment be:

  • permissive (‘the State may enact laws providing for same-sex marriage’);
  • directive (‘the State shall enact laws providing for same-sex marriage’);

On this matter the Convention decided:

  • Permissive – 17%
  • Directive – 78%
  • No opinion – 1%

A final question asked delegates if they agreed, disagreed or had no opinion that ‘having regard to the changed arrangements in relation to marriage, the State shall enact laws incorporating changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and the upbringing of children’.On this question the Convention decided:

  • Yes – 81%
  • No – 12%
  • No opinion – 2%

Full press release on vote result (PDF)

While many of us are certainly delighted with today’s result it really is only the beginning of the process towards a Referendum on Same Sex Marriage in Ireland. The Convention will send a report to the Houses of the Oireachtas. That will take about two months going by the first report issued by the Convention on lowering the voting age and the presidential term.

The Oireachtas then has 4 months to respond as set out by the Terms of Reference

“the Government will provide in the Oireachtas a response to each recommendation of the Convention within four months and, if accepting the recommendation, will indicate the timeframe it envisages for the holding of any related referendum”

So that means we will find out in about 6 months when the referendum will be held. We then have to allow for the Local and European Elections in May 2014, meaning that unless the referendum is held at the same time (could be an idea to raise turnout) it probably will be held in the Autumn of 2014. This could be a very long campaign, just like the Scottish Referendum Campaign!!

This of course raises many issues. How will TV and Radio cover it?

During the week Una Mullally raise some very valid points on this.

The main problem with how the Irish media frames the debate is around a skewed view of what ‘balance’ is. ‘Middle Ireland’, the ‘silent majority’, the ‘mainstream’, gay people are told, are not ready for something so drastic as equality. I don’t know about you, but I never actually hear that middle ground. What I hear again and again is yet another articulate gay person trying to hold their temper while they are subjected to ignorant and juvenile arguments. And I hear an opposing view, generally one from the far out end of Catholicism, blustering about children’s rights (which Civil Partnership denies, thank you very much), and trying desperately to fight against equality with arguments based on their own personal belief systems or grievances. I don’t hear middle Ireland. I don’t hear a middle ground. I don’t hear the mainstream. I don’t hear the 71% of Irish people who believe the Irish government should amend the law to provide civil marriages for same-sex couples, or the 75% who said they would vote yes in a referendum to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples, or the 72% who believe that denying civil marriage to same-sex couples is a form of discrimination*. I don’t hear the voices of teenagers and grannies who think “I don’t mind, actually.” All I hear is hate.

Constructing polarised conversations for the sake of ‘good radio’, ‘watchable TV’, ‘lively debate’, or an urge to get a radio programme or TV show’s hashtag trending doesn’t serve anyone because no real information emerges. All you come away with is conflict and division. Facts and reason are drowned out by emotional arguments and inaccuracies. It’s pointless. And while listening to Pat Kenny’s radio programme yesterday morning where the editor of GCN, Brian Finnegan, was met with bizarre anti-equality arguments from Gerry Fahey, a sickening feeling resurfaced. Because there is something more insidiously harmful going on. Broadcasters will cite ‘balance’ as a defense for allowing these views to be broadcast. But I’m sorry, there is nothing balanced about someone going on air and voicing opinions that are hateful and discriminatory. The pro-marriage equality side doesn’t do that, yet the anti side seems to have a free pass to bang on about whatever paper thin argument, conspiracy theory, or downright homophobic view they want. I am OVER it.

Gay-bashing, gay marriage, and how the media needs to get a grip – Irish Times do read the full article as it does highlight what will be a major issue during the campaign, which I’m sure will remind some people of the referendums on Abortion and Divorce in Ireland.

With polling showing that 72% of people are in favour of allowing Same Sex Marriage in Ireland any major campaign on this must take heed of what happened in the Children’s Rights Referendum last year. Polling there also showed that over 70% were in favour of that, but in the end it passed with a 58% yes vote on a 33% turnout, which is much lower then how the polling predicted it with go.

Any campaign will not only have to win the argument (which today shows it certainly can), but will have to make sure that it can get the vote out and of course make sure that young people (and members of the LGBT community), who are the largest group that back this change, are registered to vote!

That will be the biggest challenge.

It can be done.

It will be done!

This is only the beginning,

but it will happen.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Elephant in The Room, No Longer that Invisible?

The issue that normally simmers away in the background of Irish politics has taken the headlines again today thanks to an interview in the Irish Times about the the death of a mans wife. The man is Praveen Halappanavar and he was talking about the death of 31 year old Savita Halappanavar, a dentist in Galway, following a miscarriage. She had attended the hospital complaining of back pain and they discovered she was miscarrying. She had then requested a Medical Termination but it was refused “because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country””.

She spent 2 and half days in agony until the foetal heartbeat stopped. She was then transferred to the High Dependency Unit and then the Intensive Care Unit before dying of septicaemia on the 28th October.

This is shocking!

This should never have happened!

I have previously called the abortion the political debate the Elephant in the Room, but following today’s news adding to the ABC v Ireland case further demonstrates the need for an Abortion Act in Ireland.

In a strange co-incidence the Minister of Health received the Report of the Expert on the ABC v Ireland yesterday evening. The Government will soon have to make a decision on this and the sooner the better.

There are many protests being planned in Cork there is one tonight (7pm outside Opera House) and on Friday (1pm on Daunt Square)

There are also protest in Dublin (tonight and Saturday), Galway (Saturday), Belfast (Thursday 15th) and London. More details being added to Una Mullally’s blog on the Irish Times.

As a Country we have had 20 years to sort this out. Government’s of all hues have failed to sort out this issue. Its time our Government legislated for this. Hopefully they will be shamed into acting after this.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Fiscal Treaty Referendum: Thursday May 31st

The date has been set for the Fiscal Treaty Referendum and it will take place on Thursday May 31st. Polls will be open from 7am until 10pm.

The date was announced by An Táiniste Eamonn Gilmore in the Dáil this afternoon following a Cabinet Meeting this morning when the date was agreed upon.

There will be much disappointment that the vote will be held on a Thursday considering that Fine Gael and Labour regularly lambasted past Governments for holding elections on weekdays.

Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin has called on the Government to produce a white paper on the treaty to aid discussion and debate on the treaty.

The next step for the Government now will be to publish the bill to amend the Constitution to allow for the treaty to be ratified and then to set up a Referendum Commission to inform the public.

Campaigners have 64 days to persuade people of there arguments and with recent polls showing the Yes side in the lead with 60% its going to be a tough campaign!

Don’t forget you can read the treaty here!

YFG to call on the Government to implement its election promise?

Young Fine Gael
Image via Wikipedia

More of the motions from the Young Fine Gael next weekend have been released and Wexford YFG have one calling on the Government to implement one of Fine Gael’s pre-election policies on the Irish Language. The motion reads

YFG calls on FG to live up to its election promise and removes Irish as a compulsory subject in the Leaving Certificate

The relevant part of the Fine Gael manifesto reads as follows

Fine Gael is committed to overhauling the way in which Irish is taught at primary and second levels of education, to ensure teachers are equipped with the right tools to instil a love of the language for all students and the curriculum is designed to inspire students to continue speaking the language after leaving school.

• We will overhaul the curriculum at second level and we will critically examine the effect of current training methods of teachers to teach. Irish as an optional subject for Leaving Certificate will only apply following consultations on both matters.

• We will allocate 50% of marks to oral Irish exams.

• We aim to double the proportion of Irish students sitting the Higher Level Leaving Certificate exam by 2018.

This is sure to get a big debate going on Saturday morning. The Irish Language policy caused a lot of division in the grassroots of Fine Gael and Young Fine Gael and is an issue that can regularly be heard debated in YFG/FG social events.

While I am all for a revision of the curriculum on Irish and in fact think it should be split into two subjects, Conversational and Literature. This should stop the learning by rote which is endemic in the learning of Irish, but should it be compulsory is a tough one.

Motions to be discussed at YFG Conference 2012

  • YFG proposes that an incentive for young farmers be introduced by increasing the number of training places in agricultural colleges – Laois YFG
  • YFG approves of the process of fracking as can it can prove a viable energy source in Ireland for the foreseeable future – UCD YFG
  • YFG proposes that the 1989 Incitement of Hatred Act be updated to include provisions relating to social media and social networking – Kilkenny YFG
  • YFG believes that a graduate tax should be introduced for all college graduates as a means of funding their education and the present entry fees should be phased out over 5 years. Households with an income of below €45,000 would be exempted – UCC YFG
  • YFG believes that it is imperative that the ECB renegotiates the current promissory note structure with the Government. It is in the best interests of the Irish economy, the ECB, the Euro and the European Union that the structure of the promissory notes system is changed. Failure to do so will create an unsustainable debt burden for Ireland, causing huge barriers to job creation and restricting growth in the Irish economy – YFG National Executive
  • Young Fine Gael strongly supports Ireland’s membership of the euro and the efforts of EU Government to stabilise the eurozone, and; calls on the Government to engage with other EU member states to implement real and lasting reform of the EU treaties and institutions to ensure that the dangerous political paralysis of the last two years can never be repeated. – Alfie Byrne YFG
  • YFG calls on FG to live up to its election promise and removes Irish as a compulsory subject in the Leaving Certificate – Wexford YFG
  • YFG call on the government to bring forward legislation allowing gay couples to adopt – DCU YFG
YFG proposes that an incentive for young farmers be introduced by
increasing the number of training places in agricultural colleges – Laois
YFG
YFG approves of the process of fracking as can it can prove a viable energy
source in Ireland for the foreseeable future – UCD YFG
YFG proposes that the 1989 Incitement of Hatred Act be updated to include
provisions relating to social media and social networking – Kilkenny YFG
YFG believes that a graduate tax should be introduced for all college
graduates as a means of funding their education and the present entry fees
should be phased out over 5 years. Households with an income of below
€45,000 would be exempted – UCC YFG
YFG believes that it is imperative that the ECB renegotiates the current
promissory note structure with the Government. It is in the best interests
of the Irish economy, the ECB, the Euro and the European Union that the
structure of the promissory notes system is changed. Failure to do so will
create an unsustainable debt burden for Ireland, causing huge barriers to
job creation and restricting growth in the Irp9olk,m ish economy – YFG
National Executive
Young Fine Gael strongly supports Ireland’s membership of the euro and the
efforts of EU Government to stabilise the eurozone, and; calls on the
Government to engage with other EU member states to implement real and
lasting reform of the EU treaties and institutions to ensure that the
dangerous political paralysis of the last two years can never be repeated.
– Alfie Byrne YFG
YFG calls on FG to live up to its election promise and removes Irish as a
compulsory subject in the Leaving Certificate – Wexford YFG
YFG call on the government to bring forward legislation allowing gay
couples to adopt – DCU YFG

Upcoming Legislation

This is a photograph of the Dáil chamber, Lein...
Image via Wikipedia

The Government have published the Legislative Agenda for the summer session. The following bills will be published

  • Veterinary Practice (Amendment) Bill
  • Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill
  • Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill
  • Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Bill
  • Patents (Amendment) Bill
  • Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill
  • Electoral Commission Bill
  • Local Government Services Corporate Bodies (Amendment) Bill
  • Betting (Amendment) Bill
  • Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Bill
  • Finance (No. 2) Bill
  • Fiscal Responsibility Bill
  • Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill
  • Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) Bill
  • Courts (Enforcement of Maintenance and Appointment of Taxing Master) Bill
  • Criminal Justice Bill
  • European Arrest Warrant (Extension) and Extradition (Amendment) Bill
  • Spent Convictions Bil
  • Social Welfare and Pensions Bill
  • National Tourism Development Authority (Amendment) Bill

So there are 20 bills to be added to one that has been published, Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2011. In addition the Government have agreed the heads of 41 other bills and they have also 105 possible bills under which the heads have not been agreed by Government,

Bills  of interest will the Finance act as that will bring in the tax provisions of the Civil Partnership Act. Also the other acts surrounding the banks will be of interest. The powers that will be granted to the Electoral Commission and the banning of corporate donations (including those from Unions) will also be ones to watch.

Red C Poll: December

Election Posters
Image by jaqian via Flickr

The polls are coming fast and furious this month. Red C have a poll in tomorrows Irish Business Post. The top line figures are as follows:

  • Fine Gael 34% (+1)
  • Labour 23% (-4)
  • Fianna Fail 17% (nc)
  • Sinn Fein 14% (+3)
  • Greens 2% (-1)
  • Others 10% (+2)

As usual Adrian Kavanagh of PoliticalReform.ie has translated this into possible seats and comes up with the following:

  • Fine Gael 66
  • Labour 46
  • Fianna Fail 27
  • Sinn Fein 25
  • Greens 0
  • Others 12 (5 for United Left Candidates)

With both Red C and Ipsos MRBI showing Fianna Fail on 17%, bells must be ringing on Lower Mount Street. I wonder can we expect to see more senior resignations from Fianna Fail before the election?

Labour do seem to be losing votes, mainly to Sinn Fein, but I assume the United Left Alliance is picking up a number of these votes also.

The next Dáil will probably a very different one to the one we see now. It will have a significantly weakened Fianna Fail who will be without some of their most senior and influential figures through retirements and some election losses and it will probably have the largest number of left wingers it has ever seen!

Interesting times ahead. I wonder will the new year bring about a change of luck for Fianna Fail?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Will the Government delay the election?

A lunchtime protest by dislocated workers was ...
Image via Wikipedia

Today’s Editorial in the Irish Independent asks for that the following occurs,

On December 7, the Dail must pass the Budget. Then the Finance Bill should go through with unprecedented speed, to clear the way for the General Election.

Most people would agree that that is the way that the Government should be planning things, if the budget passes.

But are they?

According to Leo Varadkar TD, they are not.

Under Fianna Fáil’s plan, there are only 10 sitting days left until the Dáil rises on December 16th followed by a 33 day break until the Dáil sits again on January 19th. The Taoiseach has consistently claimed that the Budget is of prime importance yet he is refusing to bring it forward or allow extra time for it and the subsequent Finance and Social Welfare Bills to be debated and voted upon.

This is a joke. If the Government does not change this plan, it will not be looked on favourable by the electorate. They are hanging on by a thread and by following this course of action they are trying to cling to their positions as they know the writing is on the wall.

Hopefully the Greens will try and change this plan.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Bailing out the Banks

2 euro coins
Image by Landahlauts via Flickr

So last night it finally happened. We formalised the bailout. We are taking an €85 billion loan. We will be paying an interest rate of about 5.8%. We will be loaning money to ourselves.

Yes, you read that last line right.

€17.5 billion will be coming for the National Pension Reserve Fund and the other cash on hand funds.

Who’s fault is this? The Banks.

€35 billion of this is for them. €50 billion is to cover state deficits. They are there because we gave the banks money!

It is a disgrace.

Links of Interest:

A difficult but essential deal – Irishtimes.com

€85bn rescue package – Unwelcome return to penal times – IrishExaminer.com

At least we know the grim reality – Independent.ie

Announcement of joint EU – IMF Programme for Ireland – Corkpolitics.ie

It’s All about Money – JasonoMahony.ie

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Dáil must vote on the Bailout

This is a photograph of the Dáil chamber, Lein...
Image via Wikipedia

Charlie Flanagan TD has flagged up an interesting article in Bunreacht na hEireann on Facebook which could cause a headache for the Government.

The Constitution in Article 29.5.2 states

The State shall not be bound by any international agreement involving a charge upon public funds unless the terms of the agreement shall have been approved by Dáil Éireann.

This will lead to a few interesting days in the Dáil chamber. The Bailout cannot be drawn down on without the Dáil supporting the bailout. That means the Government will have to try and get that passed. Will they do it before the Budget? Will all the Government TD’s vote for the Bailout?

The Government may try and weasel out of a vote using Article 29.5.3 which states

This section shall not apply to agreements or conventions of a technical and adminstrative character.

But I don’t think the Attorney General or the Courts would support that decision.

So who is going to lobby their TD on this bailout?

Enhanced by Zemanta

George Osborne’s Statement on the UK’s Bilateral Loan to Ireland

George Osborne MP, pictured speaking on the la...
Image via Wikipedia

A statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt. Hon. Mr George Osborne. From Hansard:

With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement regarding financial assistance for Ireland.I hope Members will understand that an announcement had to be made at the weekend, ahead of markets opening this morning. Last night, I spoke to the Chair of the Treasury Committee and the shadow Chancellor to keep them informed of the latest developments.

The United Kingdom, alongside the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the eurozone and other member states, is participating in the international financial assistance package for Ireland announced last night. We are doing this because it is overwhelmingly in Britain’s national interest that we have a stable Irish economy and banking system.

The current Irish situation has become unsustainable. Its sovereign debt markets had effectively closed and had little prospect of reopening. While Britain’s market interest rates had fallen over the past six months, Ireland’s had risen to record levels, and Ireland’s banks had become completely reliant on central bank funding to maintain their operations. In the judgment of the Irish Government, as well as of the IMF and others, this situation could not go on.

Members will understand that it would not have been appropriate for us in recent weeks to have engaged in public speculation about whether Ireland should request assistance from the international community, but I can now report that we have been engaged in intensive private discussions with the G7, the IMF, the EU and the Irish Government on plans for the eventuality that Ireland would request support. At the G20 meeting in South Korea two weeks ago, I was one of the European Finance Ministers who issued a joint statement that provided a brief respite. At the ECOFIN meeting last Wednesday, my colleagues and I discussed the Irish situation with Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, with whom I have also kept in touch directly. Following meetings in Brussels, the Irish Government committed to engage in a short and focused consultation with the IMF and the EU. On Thursday a joint mission arrived in Dublin, and in the last few days I engaged with my counterparts in the G7, the euro area and the EU about the way forward.

Following intense work over the weekend between the Irish and international authorities, last night Ireland’s Prime Minister, Brian Cowen, made a formal request for assistance. This was followed by statements from the G7, the IMF, the Eurogroup and European Finance Ministers to

“provide the necessary financial resources for Ireland to implement its fiscal reform plans and stabilise its banking system.”

The statements made it clear that there were two components to the rescue package. The first puts beyond doubt Ireland’s ability to fund itself. The international assistance package will support an ambitious four-year fiscal strategy which the Irish government will set out later this week. This will see a fiscal consolidation of €15 billion by 2014, of which €6 billion will be implemented next year, as part of a strategy leading to a target budget deficit of 3% of GDP in four years’ time. The second part of the assistance package is a fund for potential future capital needs of the banking sector. This will support measures to promote deleveraging and ensure restructuring of Ireland’s banks, so that its banking system can perform its role in supporting the economy.

Let me turn to how the package will be financed. This is a joint programme, with funding from both the IMF and the EU. The amount of money involved will, in part, depend on the IMF’s analysis of what is needed, and Prime Minister Cowen has said that he expects it to be less than €100 billion. The international community is working on the rough assumption that the IMF will contribute about one third of the total. The total European package will provide the other two thirds. Based on the significant reform of the IMF agreed by G20 Finance Ministers last month, the IMF is well placed to play a leading role in this international effort. The UK, of course, is an important shareholder of the IMF and we will meet these multilateral obligations. I would like to reassure the House that the IMF is currently well resourced and able to meet the cost of the package for Ireland.

The European element of this package will primarily come from two sources of funding agreed in May before this Government came into office: the €60 billion European financial stabilisation mechanism; and the €440 billion European financial stability facility. The balance between the European mechanism and the eurozone facility will be determined in the coming days. The United Kingdom is not a member of the euro, and will not be a member of the euro while we are in government, and so we will not participate in the eurozone stability fund. To be fair to my predecessor, he kept us out of that fund, but he did agree to the UK’s involvement in the European mechanism two days before we took office. I made it clear at the time that I did not believe he should make that commitment. However, it operates according to qualified majority voting and so we cannot stop it being used, and to exercise that vote at this time would, I judge, be very disruptive. So the EU will lend money to Ireland on behalf of all 27 member states, and the UK must accept its share of this contingent liability, which would arise in the unlikely scenario that Ireland should default on its obligations to the EU.

On top of this, I have agreed that the UK should consider offering a bilateral loan to Ireland, as part of the IMF and European package. I judge this to be in Britain’s national interest. Let me explain why. We have strong economic relations with Ireland. Ireland accounts for 5% of Britain’s total exports—indeed, we export more to Ireland than to Brazil, Russia, India and China put together. Ireland is the only country with which we share a land border, and in Northern Ireland our economies are particularly linked, with two fifths of its exports going to the Republic.

Just as our two economies are connected, our two banking sectors are also interconnected. I should stress that the resilience of our own banks, which are now well capitalised, means that they are well placed to manage any impact from the situation in Ireland. But two of the four largest high street banks operating in Northern Ireland are Irish-owned, accounting for almost a quarter of personal accounts. The Irish banks have an important presence in the UK. What is more, two Irish banks are actual issuers of sterling notes in Northern Ireland. It is clearly in Britain’s interest that we have a growing Irish economy and a stable Irish banking system. By considering a bilateral loan, we are recognising these deep connections between our two countries and, crucially, it has helped us to be at the centre of the discussions that have shaped the conditions of an international assistance package that is of huge importance to our economy. Of course, this is a loan and we can expect to be repaid. In fact, Sweden has already deemed it to be in its national interest to consider a bilateral loan to Ireland.

Now that the Irish Government have requested assistance, a lot of the detailed work of putting together the package can take place. I understand that Members are keen to hear the specifics, such as the rate of interest on the loans, the repayment periods and the contribution from each of the various elements of the package. I shall keep the House informed.

Later this week, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will be in Northern Ireland to discuss the situation there. I will ensure there is a specific discussion in the House if there is a bilateral loan, and we will need to take primary powers.

Finally, let me say something about the future of the various European support funds, which are being discussed later this year. Both the Prime Minister and I are very clear that when it comes to putting in place a permanent eurozone bail-out mechanism, the UK will not be part of that.

This is a situation of great difficulty for Ireland and it is a tragedy when it did so much to improve its competitiveness with low taxes and flexible labour markets, but the truth is that it had a hugely leveraged banking sector that was badly regulated—a pattern that we have had to deal with in our own country. In addition, because Ireland is a member of the euro, exchange rate flexibility and independent monetary policy were not tools available to it when the crisis took hold. The arguments against Britain joining the euro are well rehearsed, not least by me, but although “I told you so” might be correct, it does not amount to an economic policy.

When the coalition Government came into office, Britain was in the financial danger zone. We have taken action to put our house in order. We were once seen as part of the problem, but we are now part of the solution. Ireland is a friend in need and it is in our national interests that we should be prepared to help at this difficult time. I commend the statement to the House.

Enhanced by Zemanta