Seanad debates

Thursday, 3 June 2010

11:00 am

Photo of Labhrás Ó MurchúLabhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)

From the first day I came into the Seanad, other Senators and I have endeavoured to provide advocacy on behalf of people who suffer abuses of human rights. Where possible, I have endeavoured to give a voice to those who have no voice, particularly prisoners of conscience. I have always believed we should tread warily on the individual conscience. After all, conscience is what distinguishes us as human beings. We must all answer at the bar of our own conscience, rather than somebody else's conscience. Therefore, it is an uncomfortable prospect for me that at some future date, as a result of legislation in which I have acquiesced, I may have to speak in this House on behalf of Irish prisoners of conscience. The Civil Partnership Bill 2009 provides that a person can lose his or her job or be imprisoned, and that churches and other bodies can have their property commandeered. I do not think that is right in a country that has upheld traditional values down through the centuries, often in the face of oppression and misrepresentation. I do not think it is right that people who in good conscience believe they are upholding the same values should be subject to such a penal code. Many people in Ireland will see this as an echo of the dreaded penal laws. It cannot be correct.


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