Buttimer welcomes Minister’s decision on funding under SSNO scheme

Friday, July 18th 2014

  • Minister for the Environment restores funding to a number of health, disability and other organisations following review of the SSNO scheme

A number of organisations which provide great work were left not just extremely disappointed, but facing closure, after they failed to secure funding under the Scheme to Support National Organisations (SSNO).

I expressed concern about the impact of this on the groups involved on a number of occasions over the last few weeks. Many of these groups only get a small amount of funding from the Government, but it is absolutely vital for their survival. And without their good work, minority groups would suffer.

Minister Kelly has now decided to restore funding to groups which had previously received monies under the scheme, and which submitted valid applications this year. Bridging finance totalling just under €1.3 million for a 12 month period is being approved to avoid a sudden and adverse impact on these organisations.

A review will now be undertaken to ensure public money is being well spent and that there is no unnecessary duplication. While we must ensure efficiency and transparency, we must also not lose sight of humanity in the process. Small groups such as those funded under the SSNO scheme provide fantastic support, and I am glad that they can now plan ahead for the next twelve months with certainty.

Posted under Children & Youth Affairs, Environment, Health, National Work

Brooks debacle proves it’s time to review the licencing laws for concerts – Buttimer

Friday, July 4th 2014

  • Debacle surrounding the Garth Brooks concerts is proof that we need to review the licencing system for concerts and outdoor events
  • Must ensure tickets cannot be sold until a licence is granted

The fallout from Dublin City Council’s decision to refuse to grant licences for two out of the five Garth Brooks gigs has resulted in a meaningless blame game which is getting us nowhere. Trying to apportion blame to the promoters, or the City Manager, or the operators of Croke Park is pointless at this stage.

The reality is everyone involved was playing by the rules as they currently stand. Under our planning laws, events for more than 5,000 people require a licence. And there is nothing to stop promoters selling tickets before the licence is granted. In fact, doing so is probably the norm. The difference is, they got caught out this time round, and consumers are suffering as a result.

According to the current legislation, the application for a licence must be lodged with the local authority 16 weeks before an event, and the authority must allow five weeks to pass before making the decision on whether to grant the licence or not.

An amendment could be made to the current legislation stipulating that tickets cannot be sold until the licence is granted. An onus should be placed on local authorities to ensure the decision is made within a fixed timeframe. It would be acceptable for event organisers to promote the concert in advance, but tickets shouldn’t be sold until the licence is in place.

I do not see how this would cause any major problems. It is unusual for licences not to be granted. But only by changing the system will we ensure that we will avoid a situation in the future where hundreds of thousands of ticket holders are left out of pocket and deeply disappointed.

Clearly, an immediate solution needs to be found for the 400,000 ticket holders who still don’t know for definite whether any or all of the concerts will go ahead in just a few weeks’ time. But we also need to prevent this sort of debacle from happening again in the future.

ENDS

Posted under Cork City, Dáil Speeches, Environment, National Work, Tourism, Uncategorized

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