Seanad debates

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Parental Leave Bill 2013: Committee Stage


2:40 pm

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I feel a moral responsibility to put on record the Minister of State’s personal achievement in honouring her word that she would come back in early spring and discuss the Bill further.

I would also like to congratulate our Leader, Senator Cummins, who did not take the traditional aggressive or antagonistic approach to an Opposition Bill and who saw it as important that fathers would have a bigger share in maternity leave, although it would be the woman's choice to decide how it would be shared. I also thank Senator Wilson for seconding this Bill.

I came up with this proposal when I was preparing work on promoting women entrepreneurs in Ireland. Only half as many women as men start up businesses here, but Enterprise Ireland has progressively focused on encouraging more women into business and has proved that action taken to support women entrepreneurs brings a positive result. Therefore, we are focusing in this Bill on another approach that will offer support to women. As we all know, Irish women today are totally different from those of previous generations, thanks to their education. They are as ambitious as men and want to participate and have equal responsibility in society. It is only right then that men should be able to participate in maternity leave. It is unjust if they cannot enjoy a similar right to leave. As asked earlier, why should men not be able to share in leave at the same time as the mother when a baby is born?

I will withdraw my proposal and will be happy to work with the Minister of State on the issue. It is noteworthy that the Government is willing to accept an Opposition Bill and that the Leader wants the Seanad to move on its responsibility in society. This is a sign of the importance of the role of the Seanad, which will not be seen as just deciding it will not have anything to do with the Bill despite knowing heart and soul that it is for the better of Irish men and women.

I thank the Minister of State, the Leader and my colleague Senator Wilson who seconded the Bill, which came about as a result of my research into how to support and promote women entrepreneurs. If a woman is starting a business, she cannot very well run off for 26 weeks, because starting a business is time consuming. Also, many unemployed men would be glad to stay at home and let the women go out to work. There are many cases where the wives of unemployed men have new babies and would like to return to their work. The proposal in this Bill is a milestone in the evolving role of men in society. The proposal will also apply in the area of civil partnership and adoption and will be to the good of a more open society.


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