Lenihan blames Greens for civil partnership tax bungle
FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan caused a spat between Fianna Fail and the Greens yesterday by taking a pop at his former coalition partners for pulling out of government too soon.
Mr Lenihan said the Green Party's move caused the Finance Bill to be rushed through the Dail and Seanad, raising doubts about the tax status of people who enter into civil partnerships.
He said he it was "extraordinary" the Greens pulled out of government last Sunday, leaving no time to fully implement an issue they were so closely associated with.
And the Greens hit back at Fianna Fail, criticising former Justice Minister Dermot Ahern for not bringing in civil partnerships earlier and for not giving them their dues when it was introduced. Although Mr Ahern always denied it, it was widely believed he had a fractious relationship with the Greens.
Same-sex couples have been able to apply to the civil register for partnerships since the start of the year and the first civil partnership ceremonies are due to take place in April.
The Finance Bill contains changes to the tax codes which would give civil partners the same tax status as married couples. But the Department of Finance said the relevant passages are extremely long and complex and could not have been pushed through the Oireachtas in a week.
The tax measures will now not be passed until the next government is formed, but partnership ceremonies will begin anyway on April 1.
The new government, likely to be a Fine Gael-Labour coalition, will almost certainly be in place before then and both parties are committed to passing the leftover parts of the bill.
Nevertheless, Mr Lenihan still criticised the Greens, telling the Seanad "it would have been desirable to have had a finance bill clarifying the tax status" before the partnership ceremonies begin.
"It was extraordinary that the Green Party, which made such an effort at pushing the question, could not find it in its heart to give the Government another week or two to arrange for that," the Dublin West TD said.
But Green senator Dan Boyle said it was agreed earlier this week between Fianna Fail, Labour, Fine Gael and the Greens that the relevant passages would be passed soon after the general election.
Green Carlow-Kilkenny TD Mary White also criticised Mr Ahern and said civil partnerships could have been brought in "much more quickly" if he wasn't so reluctant to do so.
"As Minister Lenihan knows, the deadline of having the Finance Bill completed by Saturday was imposed by Fine Gael and the Labour Party," she said.
"The Green Party at all times indicated that it would be flexible as regards the timeline for seeing the Finance Bill passed. For Minister Lenihan to imply that it is our fault that the taxation provisions on civil partnership will have to be brought in after the election is a complete mischaracterisation."