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Byrne, Thomas

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Order of Business

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Senator Thomas Byrne

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Senator Thomas Byrne

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Thomas Byrne

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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

I echo the comments of my colleagues with regard to the appointment of the new bishop of Meath and Kildare. Church of Ireland parishioners in County Meath were very anxious that a bishop be appointed. It is a first step and is quite welcome. I will take this brief opportunity to be ecumenical; during the summer my parish priest was ordained a bishop and I congratulate Bishop Nulty. He will be based in Kildare, as Meath and Kildare are still in separate dioceses in the Catholic Church.
I wish to ask about the Valuation (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill. During the Second Stage debate I raised serious concerns about this, because it will mean complete reform of the rates system but it will do nothing to help struggling businesses. I and my colleagues in Fianna Fáil were alone in opposing it at the time and we raised concerns about the constitutionality of the legislation. The Bill last appeared on an agenda in the House in October 2012. We have been told time and again that the Seanad has not used its powers, and Fine Gael mentions the past 50 years. I contend this legislation is more than likely being improved in the draughtsman's office in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. We commit to supporting the Bill if our concerns are addressed. We do not want to block any legislation; we want to improve it. I would be grateful if the Leader outlined the position with regard to what is commonly called the rates Bill, whose official title is the Valuation (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012.
Will the Leader facilitate, in advance of the referendum, a debate on Article 27 of the Constitution? It is the dog that is not barking with regard to the referendum. Article 27 of the Constitution allows one third of the Dáil, together with a majority of the Seanad, to petition the President to call a referendum on any matter of national importance. I looked back on the record and saw Sinn Féin called for such a referendum under Article 27 during the NAMA debate, and some of the Leader's colleagues called for such a debate during the summer on abortion. Almost ten years ago, when the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, was in the Seanad, he called for such a referendum on electronic voting. The provision is concerned with democracy and the will of the people and it has not been debated. Every other amendment to the Constitution proposed in this referendum would simply give the Dáil the power the Seanad has.