Buttimer calls for legislative change to increase choice of wedding venues

Wednesday, July 2nd 2014

  • Restrictive interpretation of the Civil Registration Act 2004 excludes many suitable venues
  • Legislative change needed to allow marriages and civil partnerships to take place at a wider range of venues.

 

As more and more people choose to get married outside of traditional religious settings the issue of where marriages and civil partnerships can take place has come under increasing focus. The Civil Registration Act 2004 as amended, requires that the solemnisation of marriages and civil partnerships ‘takes place in a place that is open to the public’.  The Act itself allows for some degree of flexibility but it has been interpreted and applied in a very restrictive way.

Unfortunately this is having an impact on people’s ability to get married at a place of their own choosing.  Many hotels and country houses, even sites operated by the OPW, are not able to facilitate weddings in venues that would be ideal. This means that civil marriages and civil partnerships can only take place in a permanent fixed structure, with 4 walls, a roof and that is open to the public.  In hotels this is often restricted to one room and marquees cannot be used.

The idea behind this interpretation is that the venue can be identified and easily accessible in the event that there is an objection to the union.  If we look to the UK and Northern Ireland, we can see that they effectively have the same requirements but they facilitate ceremonies at many suitable venues and they are not restricted to a permanent structure with four walls and a roof.

This week it has come to public attention that a legal challenge will be taken to the interpretation of the legislation.  It is unfortunate that the simple issue of venues for weddings and civil partnerships should have end up in the courts.  I have asked the Minister for Social Protection to consider making the appropriate changes to the legislation so that we can allow people to get married and enter civil partnerships at a wider range of venues.

Marriage and civil partnership are memorable life events that reflect the commitment of two people to each other and their vision of a shared life.  The State facilitates and supports these commitments but it is disappointing that it is the State that prevents these great days taking place in a range of suitable venues.  It was confirmed to me in the Dáil that the Minister has sought the advice of the Attorney General on this issue and I hope that this will be the basis for the change that so many couples want to see.

Posted under Dáil Speeches, Health, National Work, Social Protection, Uncategorized

Parliamentary Question: Medical Aids and Appliances Provision

Parliamentary Question for Alex White TD

For WRITTEN ANSWER on 26th June 2014

To ask the Minister for Health the reason a special belt which has to be worn with a stoma bag has been taken off the list of items covered by a medical card; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply:

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is responsible for the administration of the primary care schemes, therefore, the matter has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Posted under Health, Parliamentary Questions

CRC report exposes former Board’s attitude to spending public and charitable funding – Buttimer

Thursday, June 19th 2014

  • Report of the Interim Administrator to the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) exposes the former Board’s attitude to spending public and charitable funding as it liked.
  • HSE must learn from the report and put in place robust oversight and financial controls when dealing with non-statutory agencies to ensure transparency in the sector.

This report gives us an insight into the thinking of the former Board of the CRC.  It shows that there were questionable judgements made about the use of funding and in relation to salaries and pensions.  The report clearly shows that the pay of senior staff was structured to avoid the full impact of public sector pay cuts.  In contrast, the Administrator has found that public pay policy was ‘diligently applied to other staff’.  This two tier approach is unacceptable in any organisation and it is a betrayal of the hard working staff who deliver the valuable services provided by the CRC.

When concern about the operation of the CRC first arose it was disconcerting to hear that fundraising monies were used to top-up the salaries of senior staff.  This was done using a separate company, Friends and Supporters of the CRC.  The report demonstrates that this company was used to accumulate and record other sources of funding which were not disclosed to the HSE.  The report states that the only rationale for establishing this company ‘was to maximise the HSE funding of CRC services’.  In effect, this meant a distorted version of the money available to the CRC was used as the basis for allocating scarce public resources to the CRC.  The previous Board clearly thought that it could do what it liked with public and charitable funding.

The practices of the former Board of the CRC have undermined public confidence in the charity sector, this clearly had a direct impact on the CRC which has seen a sharp decline in fundraising revenues.  I hope that the report of the Interim Administrator will go towards helping to restore this confidence.  We must differentiate between the services being delivered and the practices of senior management.

The CRC now has a new CEO and a new competency-based board.  Its practices have changed and the work of the Interim Administrator has ensured the full compliance with public sector pay policy will be achieved by 2015.  It also makes clear that Friends and Supporters of the CRC should be wound up and that all money raised should go directly to the CRC.

On a wider policy level there are also lessons to be learned by the HSE and the report points to a number of changes that should be made when dealing with non-statutory agencies.  It recommends assigning a dedicated HSE manager to have responsibility for each of the larger non-statutory agencies.  Other recommendations include that service agreements must reflect the totality of relationships between service providers and the HSE and that funding should be based on specified outputs and prices.  We have greater transparency in the use of charitable and public money so that we can ensure that they operate in the interests of the clients they serve.

The Interim Administrator has brought the operation of the CRC into compliance with public sector pay policy and has ensured that a new CEO and Board will oversee the future operation of the CRC.  I hope that this report will help to restore public confidence in the CRC and the excellent services that are delivered by its staff.

Posted under Finance, Health, National Work