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 Header Item Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Questions on Promised Legislation

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 970 No. 9

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle] Although it can seem like Ireland is becoming a fully inclusive and open society, if one looks more closely, there remain systemic inequalities, particularly for the LGBTQI community. This is because three years after the passing of the marriage equality referendum, Parts 2, 3 and, crucially, 9 of the Child and Family Relationships Act still have not been commenced, despite promises and commitments from the Government to do so. Last week, the Taoiseach himself promised it would be done before the end of this Dáil term.

The Child and Family Relationships Act 2015 was to provide vital legal recognition and rights for same-sex couples with children but it has fallen short due to the lack of commencement of those provisions. It is astonishing that same-sex couples are still unable to register the name of one partner or spouse on their child's birth certificate. That can have a huge impact on parental rights. As a result of this Government's inaction, hundreds of families are being left in vulnerable situations, including children, while parents are not granted full parental rights. Many are unable to obtain passports for their children or are left in limbo without the same rights or protections afforded to other families.

When will the Government fully recognise the diverse range of families in Ireland and protect them equally? I welcome the recent announcement by the Minister for Health that he is bringing in legislation seeking to commence Parts 2 and 3 of the Child and Family Relationships Act. The Government is falling short again, however, by not also commencing Part 9, which is required alongside Parts 2 and 3 as it deals with the registration of birth amendments to the Civil Registration Act. It will allow for Parts 2 and 3 to facilitate retrospective declarations of parentage. To register the birth of a child, Part 9 will need to be commenced as well. When will the amendment Bill be progressed through the House, as a matter of urgency and is it envisaged it will before the recess? Will Part 9 also be commenced alongside Parts 2 and 3 and will a timeline be provided for this to happen?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I know Dublin Pride is happening this weekend. I expect in this weather that it will be a great celebration, as well as a great party, full of colour and with many families. Every year the Pride parades, in Dublin, Cork or elsewhere, involve more children and that is to be welcomed and supported. Turning to the specifics of the questions Deputy Pringle raised on legal official recognition of same-sex parent families, there should not be any doubt in anybody's mind of the commitment of the Taoiseach or the Government to this issue. The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, has confirmed that he wants to commence Parts 2 and 3 as soon as he can.

I am not familiar with each individual provision that the Deputy outlined, Parts 2, 3 and 9, but I will come back to him with a more detailed answer. I assure Deputy Pringle that this Government is looking to bring legal certainty to this issue as soon as we can but we have to go through the appropriate procedures to make sure that legislation is introduced properly. It is a priority. The kind of social reform we have seen happen in Ireland over the past five years is something we intend to continue and provide legal certainty around, and that goes for this issue, like many others.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle That is the point; it is not enough to just do the headline issues as these are the actions that need to happen for them to have real meaning. The Tánaiste is right when he says that many families will be celebrating this weekend at Pride. It will, however, be empty unless they can see these actions will take place. It is a mundane part of the recognition for them. Perhaps the Tánaiste could ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, about Part 9 because it is her Department that will enact it. Will that happen along with Parts 2 and 3? It is vital that they all happen together because Parts 2 and 3 on their own will not do enough to deal with the issues that same-sex couples have. For this to mean more than just a celebration, we must see practical actions and I ask the Tánaiste to make sure that happens.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Those are fair questions and I will come back to Deputy Pringle with a detailed answer because I do not want to give an off-the-cuff response to a detailed provision of a broader item of amending legislation. I will say directly to people listening outside of this House and to same-sex couples looking forward to having their family unit fully and properly recognised in law, that legislation is on the way. We will follow through on the expectations of same-sex couples and on the promises made. On the detailed provisions of the Bill, I would like to come back with a fully informed response, rather than giving a half-baked answer on the hoof. As I said, to the many people listening to the response to this question, any timelines that have delayed the implementation and the commencement of elements of this legislation are not because there is a policy problem with the Government. It is quite the opposite. It is clear that it is because we need to get this right legally and we need to be able to implement it in a timely manner.

Business of Dáil

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl That concludes Leaders' Questions. I understand that the Government Chief Whip now has a business proposal to put to the House.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I propose that, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, there shall be no oral or written Taoiseach's Questions on Tuesday, 3 July and the time will instead be taken for the motion re establishment of a Special Joint Committee on Climate Action. Speeches shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons of parties or groups, which shall not exceed five minutes each, with a five-minute response from a Minister or Minister of State. All Members may share time. Oral questions to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will take place on conclusion of the motion.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is that agreed? Agreed.

Questions on Promised Legislation

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary Electric Ireland yesterday announced a 6.2% increase in electricity prices and an 8% increase in gas prices starting in August. This electricity price increase is on top of a 4% increase last February and is symptomatic of a range of utility price increases affecting families and homes across the country. This new increase will add approximately €50 per annum to electricity bills on top of the €30 added earlier this year. What proposal does the Government have to address the rising cost of utility bills, and indeed the rising cost of living in general, for families across the country?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Government is acutely aware of the financial challenges faced by families and businesses from high electricity and gas prices. The Government's position is that a competitive electricity market, alongside energy efficiency, represents the most effective means of reducing household and business energy costs in Ireland. Domestic customers can avail of discounts either by contacting their supplier directly or by using accredited websites. We think the answer here is to ensure that we maintain a competitive market where customers and businesses are offered new products in that competitive market. We encourage them to look around at different suppliers rather than simply stick with their existing supplier without looking for better deals, because they are there.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty I raise the issue of the huge burden of insurance costs and the crisis is not just in motor insurance but is also in business insurance, as we predicted. There are many causes of the high cost of insurance but one of them is the issue of claims harvesting. It has become dominant in the market recently. These are ordinary people, not solicitors, who set up websites giving the impression that they are solicitors and they tout for business in personal injury claims. They then sell on that information and data to lawyers who pick up the claims. It is unlawful and the Law Society has closed down 14 websites in the last three years and taken two major prosecutions to the High Court in respect of the leading websites. It is still not enough. We need robust regulation and reform in this sector. When I ask the Minister, he says it is a grey area but these grey areas are pushing up costs on businesses, motorists and on home insurance. What is the Government going to do to get to grips, finally, with this issue? The Government has been well aware of it for the last number of years.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We will get an answer for the Deputy. I call the Tánaiste.

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