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Full text of Senator Martin Mansergh's article on religious freedom

Below is the full text of Senator Martin Mansergh's article on religious freedom. With kind permission of the Irish Catholic.

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Religious freedom under threat says Senator Mansergh

Elites “who want to reshape Irish society according to their lights with least possible reference to the people" are fundamentally threatening religious freedom in Ireland, according to prominent Senator, Martin Mansergh.

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UK social welfare benefits 'destroying family life' says new book

Couples who pretend to live apart can gain up to £10,000 a year in benefits, according to a new book published by UK think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs. Written by sociologist and author Patricia Morgan, the book says that the scale of the fraud is the result of a Government policy which discourages couples from marrying or even cohabiting, dealing a "devastating blow" to family life.

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Greens welcome Iona policy on tax individualisation

The Green Party has welcomed The Iona Institute's new policy document calling for fairer treatment of one-income married couples in a statement released by Finance spokesman for the Greens, Dan Boyle TD. The Deputy said that a series of measures are needed to eliminate the anomalies.

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Fine Gael adopts 'Iona' tax policy

Fine Gael have pledged to begin easing the effects of tax individualisation if they are in Government after the General Election. Their plan involves increasing the stay-at-home carers tax credit, currently worth 770 euro pa, by 1000 euro pa. The proposal is in line with the tax policy document launched by the Iona Institute which called for the Government to begin closing the tax gap between double and single income married couples.

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Bishops favour delaying children's rights referendum

The Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference have called for the Government's proposed referendum on children's rights to be postponed until after the General Election.

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First Iona Institute policy document launched

Stay-at-home mothers have been heavily penalised by the Government's ongoing tax individualisation policy, according to a new report published by the Iona Institute. The report says that the growing income gap, which now stands at up to €6,240 between single and double income married families should be an issue in the forthcoming election.

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An interview with Iona director David Quinn

Catholic news website Zenit has just published an interview with our director David Quinn on the reasons behind the establishment of the Iona Institute.

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Brother and sister challenge Germany's incest law.

A German brother and sister, who have four children together are campaigning to have their country's incest laws quashed.

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Irish Times article on gay adoption

The Irish Times yesterday printed an article by Iona Institute researcher Tom O'Gorman on gay adoption. Here is a link to the piece to enable readers to go online and engage in the debate. (Subscription required)

The text of the article is published below.

For some people the issue of gay adoption is very straight-forward. If heterosexuals are permitted to adopt children, then homosexuals must also be allowed to do so. It is a simple matter of justice.

However, this approaches the issue in an adult-centered as distinct from a child-centered way. Gay adoption, like all adoption, is about children and their welfare, and nothing else. In other words, this whole debate must centre on what children need and not on what adults, whether homosexual or heterosexual, need.

The debate, therefore, needs to focus on the following question: in terms of parenting what do children require in order to stand the best chance of flourishing in life? Specifically, does it make any difference whether a child is raised by opposite-sex parents or same-sex parents?

This is a very practical question. It has no moral connotations. It does not ask whether it is immoral to place a child with same-sex parents, nor does it ask whether it is immoral, because unjust, to refuse to place children with same-sex parents. It merely asks what are the real world consequences likely to be when children are not placed in a home with opposite sex parents?

In a way, the gay adoption debate is a sub-set of the much wider debate on family structure, a debate which asks whether it really makes any difference whether a children is raised in one family form as distinct from another. For example, does it make any difference whether a child is raised by one parent rather than two, or by two-married parents, or in a step-family, or by cohabiting parents etc?

Here's what UNICEF had to say about the matter in a report issued last month called 'Report Card 7: an Overview of Child Wellbeing in Rich Countries:“The use of data on the proportion of children living in single-parent families and stepfamilies as an indicator of wellbeing may seem unfair and insensitive.

Plenty of children in two-parent families are damaged by their parents’relationships; plenty of children in single-parent and stepfamilies are growing up secure and happy. Nor can the terms ‘single-parent families’ and ‘stepfamilies’ do justice to the many different kinds of family unit that have become common in recent decades.

But at the statistical level there is evidence to associate growing up in single-parent families and stepfamilies with greater risk to well-being – including a greater risk of dropping out of school, of leaving home early, of poorer health, of low skills, and of low pay.

Furthermore such risks appear to persist even when the substantial effect of increased poverty levels in single-parent and stepfamilies have been taken into account”.

UNICEF does not address itself to gay parenting, but it does admit that family structure matters. Of course, it's possible for a supporter of gay adoption to agree with UNICEF and to admit that ideally a child should have two parents, even two married parents, and that these parents should stay together for at least the time it takes to raise their children. But they might then argue that it makes no difference whether the parents are a man or a woman, or whether they are two men or two women.

In effect this argument says that mothers and fathers don't really matter, and that two fathers or two mothers are just as good for children as a mother and a father, a very big claim to make. Alternatively, it is to claim that a man can 'play' the role of a mother as well as a woman can, or that a woman can 'play' the role of a father as well as a man can. But this is to deny sexual complementarity, it is to deny that there are real differences between the sexes as opposed to ones that are simply the result of environment.

The burden of proof here rests with those who advocate gay adoption and who say it doesn't really matter whether a child is raised by a loving same-sex couple or a loving opposite sex couple just so long as they are loving. This is a claim that must be well supported by the evidence before society can agree that it really doesn't matter. Otherwise we are simply engaged in social experimentation, with individual children as the subjects.

And it is no good to point to studies which suggest that it doesn't make any discernible difference. As Professor Linda Waite stressed in the recent Zappone/Gilligan case, these studies are badly flawed. In her ruling in this case, Justice Elizabeth Dunne agreed with Waite and said the studies, such as they are, are inconclusive with respect to gay parenting and child-rearing.

Until they are conclusive, society must continue to favour prospective mothers and fathers in adoption decisions. A child-centered approach to this issue demands as much.


Irish children more likely to binge drink and abuse drugs, study finds.

Irish children are more likely than those in other countries to abuse drugs and alcohol, a new Government-sponsored study on child well-being has found.

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Women twice as likely as men to file for divorce

New divorce statistics show that women are twice as likely to apply for divorce as men, a conference on family law was told on Tuesday.

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Blair rejects marriage-based cure for social ills.

Prime Minister Tony Blair today rejected calls to put marriage at the heart of social and family policy. Rejecting Conservative Party leader David Cameron's suggestion that family breakdown and fatherlessness were at the heart of Britain's social ills, Mr Blair said that anti-social problems were not limited to to fatherless families.

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UK marriage rates plummet

The number of new marriages in Britain has fallen to the lowest level in 111 years, according to new data which emerged last week. Latest figures reveal that the number of marriages has dropped by 30,000 between 2004 and 2005 to a total of just over 244,000.

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Aggressive secularism a “betrayal of republican traditions”: Taoiseach

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has praised organised religion as a force for good in Irish society. Speaking at the opening of an ongoing structured dialogue between the State and religious groups, the Taoiseach said that there was no place in Ireland for “aggressive secularism”.

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Text of Professor Binchy's Trinity address

The following is the most relevant section of Professor Binchy's talk as delivered at TCD on Wednesday evening.

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Effects of referendum “uncertain” says William Binchy

The wording of the Government's proposed children's rights referendum could have legal effects “well beyond those indicated by the Government” according to Professor William Binchy of Trinity College Dublin. Professor Binchy, an acknowledged authority on family and constitutional law, said the proposed wording “raises several important questions of interpretation”.

22/02/07 [date] 22/02/07
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Bishops to study children's rights amendment

The Catholic bishops are to examine the wording of the proposed children's rights amendment but will not issue a statement about it until after their March quarterly meeting at the earliest. A spokesman for the Bishops made the comment after the wording of the proposed amendment was announced on Monday.

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Fathers have key role in fighting crime, says Tory leader

A family friendly society is a key element in stamping out gang culture, according to Conservative Party leader David Cameron. He was reacting to the third fatal shooting in London in a month. Teenager Billy Cox was found dead from gunshot wounds on Wednesday.

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PDs should respect religious conviction - Tanaiste

The PDs should “honour and respect religious practice and conviction”, and be prepared to work with the Churches “as partners in social action”, Tanaiste Michael McDowell has said.

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"The child...shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents."

Article 7. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.