SEANAD NEWS December 2015
Posted on December 17, 2015
SEANAD NEWS December 2015
As we approach the Christmas break, here's a short update on the work that I have been doing politically in recent months. As always, you will see more information on all these issues and more in the various sections of the website, on facebook (ivana bacik) and twitter (@ivanabacik).
May I wish you the very best wishes for Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Many thanks for your continued support,
Very best wishes, Ivana.
We have seen an extensive array of legislation passing through both Dáil and Seanad in recent months. The bills that I have led on or contributed to recently include: the Marriage Bill; the Legal Services Bill; the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Bill; the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Bill; the International Protection Bill; the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill; the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill; the Garda Siochana (Policing Authority) Bill; the Prisons Bill; the Courts Bill. The Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Bill is particularly noteworthy, as it provides at long last for updating and reforming our archaic law on provision of supports for vulnerable adults, and the wards of court procedure. On the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015, we persuaded the Minister to introduce important amendments in the Seanad to ensure greater democratic scrutiny of Government annual and five-yearly reports around emissions reductions. The Policing Authority and Prisons Bills deliver long-awaited reforms to our criminal justice system. The first bill provides for an independent oversight authority for An Garda Siochana; and the second will finally bring about the much-needed closure of St. Patrick’s Institute for young offenders, an institution that has been strongly condemned for its conditions of detention. Finally, in November we welcomed the election of our new Senator, Mairia Cahill.
ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE
On 15th December, Minister Joan Burton announced that she would bring forward legislation to abolish the ‘child marriage exemption’. Section 31 of the Family Law Act 1995 provides that the minimum legal age at which people can get married in Ireland is 18, but section 33 allows a court to give an exemption from this rule where one or both parties to a marriage are under 18. In June 2014, I introduced a motion in the Seanad, prompted by Labour Women, calling for an end to this exemption; seconded by Independent Senator Jillian Van Turnhout. In response, the Government agreed to review the issue, and the review culminated in this very welcome announcement. International human rights bodies have agreed that 18 is the appropriate minimum age for marriage. But we know that in Ireland between 2004-2014, 387 minors were married at the age of 16 or 17; 302 girls and 85 boys (CSO). Ending the exemption will strengthen protections for children in Ireland against the possibility of forced marriage.
CHILDCARE & CHILDREN’S RIGHTS
I strongly welcomed the measures on childcare in Budget 2016; in particular the provision for the second ECCE year; and the proposed introduction of paid paternity leave, for which I have long campaigned. In the Seanad, in November we concluded the Childcare (Amendment) Bill which requires the HSE to provide after care plans for children leaving HSE care; and the same month we passed a very important amendment to abolish the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ for parents and guardians.
CHANGE TO PROSTITUTION LAW #ENDDEMAND
In December, we had lengthy Seanad debates on the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2014, which will, among other important changes, reform our law on prostitution by criminalising the purchase of sex – for the first time tackling demand specifically, targeting clients rather than those engaged in prostitution. The reform will also involve decriminalisation of those engaged in selling sex. I was one of the authors of the Justice Committee report on prostitution which recommended this change to the law, on the basis of the approach adopted in Sweden. I spoke in support of the change, along with others from the Turn Off the Red Light coalition, on Claire Byrne Live show on RTE1 on 30th November, and that week I also hosted an information seminar for Oireachtas members with the team who made the RTE1 Investigates ‘Sex for Sale’ programme broadcast on 30th November.
#WAKING THE FEMINISTS
On 12th November, I was privileged to have been invited to act as chairperson for the important event at the Abbey Theatre organised following concern about the low representation of women in the Abbey 2016 programme; this event attracted massive attention both here and abroad, and focused attention on low visibility rates of women in public life generally.
‘BIKE TO SCHOOL’ SCHEME
In July 2015, I spoke in the Seanad to call for the introduction of a new ‘Bike to School’ scheme. I have asked the Government to consider introducing an extension of the very successful Cycle to Work Scheme, to enable employers to provide employees with tax-exempt bicycle/safety equipment for their primary & secondary school-age children; or provide for a mechanism to enable schools to purchase the bicycles/equipment. The health benefits are obvious. As a daily cyclist, a member of the All-Party Children’s Future Health group and a founder member of the Oireachtas All-Party cyclists group, I will continue to press for this – the idea has received strong support on social media too! (#biketoschool)
MY PRIVATE MEMBERS BILL ON SECTION 37 PASSED SEANAD & DÁIL
Since my first election in 2007, I have had three private members’ bills accepted by Government. The most recent of these is the Employment (Equality) (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2013, which I introduced in March 2013 and which was accepted as a Government bill; now re-named the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013, it was passed in the Seanad on 9th July 2015. It amends section 37 of the Employment Equality Act to prohibit discrimination against LGBT teachers or hospital workers. It has been welcomed by teachers’ unions and LGBT groups and its final passage through the Dáil in December 2015 added to the great equality successes we have been celebrating this year.
REPEAL OF THE EIGHTH AMENDMENT – LABOUR WOMEN LEGISLATION
In November 2014, I announced the establishment of a Labour Women Commission on Repeal of the Eighth Amendment, to work on drafting legislation to replace the Eighth Amendment, assisted by a panel of independent legal and medical experts including former Senator Dr. Mary Henry (our Chairperson) and Drs Peter Boylan and Veronica O’Keane. I was Rapporteur to the Commission. On 27th February 2015, Labour Party members voted unanimously to endorse the Commission’s Report and to support repeal of the Amendment, and its replacement with legislation allowing abortion on grounds of risk to life or health; rape; and fatal foetal abnormality. On 25th November, I launched the draft legislation providing for legal abortion on those grounds, at a launch co-hosted with Labour Women, and chaired by Mary Henry. Catherine McGuinness and Peter Boylan spoke in support of the new bill. The Labour manifesto for the next General Election will include a commitment to hold a referendum on repeal of the Eighth Amendment, and this will be a priority for the party in any programme for government negotiations.
For more information on these or any other issues, please do contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org