The right to equality in marriage stands as one of the last remaining challenges to be overcome for the gay and lesbian community, Fianna Fáil’s Justice Spokesman Niall Collins told the Dáil.
In 1989, Fianna Fáil steered through the Oireachtas the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, which made it an offence to stir up hatred against a group or persons on account of a number of specific grounds, including sexual orientation, he said. This principle was subsequently extended to the area of broadcasting to copper-fasten protection against the proliferation of hateful material.
With regard to the decriminalisation of homosexuality, in 1993 the Fianna Fáil-led Government, with Máire Geoghegan-Quinn as Minister for Justice, brought forward the Criminal (Sexual Offences) Act, which finally brought an end to the unfair criminalisation of homosexual practice, he said. The then Minister took the lead in advocating publicly in the press and Oireachtas for a change to the law.
The civil partnership Bill introduced by FF in 2010 had far-reaching consequences for same-sex couples. For the first time in Irish law, gay and lesbian relationships have been given official recognition. With this new legal status comes a range of rights and responsibilities.
These include pension rights, succession rights, maintenance obligations and protections in the event of domestic violence.
“In a modern society such as ours, it would be unacceptable to continue to ignore same-sex relationships,” he said.
“The overriding aim of the Act was to bring about positive change to same-sex relationships on both a profound and practical level within the current constitutional framework. More than 1,500 partnerships have been formed in a testament to the liberating strength of the legislation. Civil partnerships constitute an important milestone on the road towards same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage represents the next fundamental step along the path to genuine equality. At the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis held in March 2012, our members voted to pass a resolution supporting equal marriage rights.”
Deputy Collis said he trusted that the Government will push forward with plans to hold a referendum on this issue in 2015 and will provide legal certainty around adoption issues. “Clarity over the legal rights surrounding children will be vital in giving real effect to the protections afforded in the Constitution to the family unit,” he added.
O’Sullivan seeks submissions on wind energy guidelines
Everyone has an opportunity to contribute his or her views before the new wind energy guidelines are finalised next year, Housing & Planning Minister Jan O’Sullivan told the Dáil.
There is major interest in the public consultation process she has undertaken she said and she looks forward to receiving and considering evidence-based submissions on the draft revisions by 21 February 2014.
“The draft revisions to the wind energy development guidelines which I put out to public consultation propose three main changes,” she said.
“These include the setting of a more stringent absolute noise limit, day and night, of 40 dB for future wind energy developments. I emphasise that this is an outdoor limit and, in general, the reduction of noise levels between the outside of a dwelling and inside would be approximately 10 dB.”
The second change is a mandatory setback of 500m between a wind turbine and the nearest dwelling for amenity considerations, she said. Under previous guidelines, that setback was not mandatory.
“The third is that a condition be attached to all future planning permissions for wind farms to ensure there will be no shadow flicker at any dwelling within 10 rotor diameters of a wind turbine,” she said. “If shadow flicker does occur, the wind energy project developer or operator will be required to take necessary measures such as turbine shut down for the period necessary to eliminate the shadow flicker.”
Minister O’Sullivan said the purpose of the guidelines, when finalised, is to protect the interests of communities and ensure development of renewable energy infrastructure takes place appropriately, with regard to relevant social and environmental factors.
“As the new requirements on noise levels, setback and shadow flicker will apply to all future planning applications for wind energy developments, both supplying electricity to the national grid and for export, it is important that they strike the appropriate balance,” she added.