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Ombudsman for Children to organise “ballot” of 200,000 children

More than 200,000 Irish young people are to be asked by the Children's Ombudsman to identify issues and address problems that concern them.

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Report argues that Constitution should give “explicit” protection to children

A report, commissioned by the Ombudsman for Children's Office (OCO), has recommended that the Constitution be amended to explicitly confer legal rights on children. Prepared by Dr Ursula Kilkelly, of University College Cork, the report, Obstacles to the Realisation of Children's Rights in Ireland, identified what it claims are six ‘impediments’ to the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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Gardai say turban ban not based on religion

The decision by the Gardaí not to allow a Sikh man to wear a turban as a Guard was not a religious decision, according to the force. In a detailed statement, the Gardaí Síochána said that a desire to retain “an image of impartiality” was the reason behind the decision to retain a uniform dress code.

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Couples married for 11 plus years most likely to get divorced, figures show

Irish couples married for over 11 years are the most likely to get divorced, according to new figures from the Court Service 2006 Annual Report. Just over a quarter of couples applying for divorce were married for between 11-15 years and one-fifth of divorce applications were granted to couples who had been married for between 16-20 years, the report says.

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Family time key to teen happiness, poll finds

Teen happiness is not linked to sex, drugs and rock and roll, but family and friends, according to a new survey. The poll, carried out by the the Associated Press and MTV, found that the most common answer among teenagers when asked “What makes you happy” was spending time with family.

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Lesbian couple force YMCA to recognise same-sex couples

A branch of the YMCA in the US has been forced to recognise gay and lesbian civil partnerships as families for the purpose of membership after a lesbian couple made a complaint to a human rights commission in their state. The couple have taken a case against the charity.

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Archdiocese says it has “no power” to sack headmaster in gay civil union

A Catholic school whose headmaster has entered into a civil partnership with another male teacher cannot fire him, according to the Archdiocese of Liverpool. The Archdiocese, which runs St Cecilia's Primary School, at the centre of the story, said that it has received legal advice on the matter.

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Marriage is good for your health, new research shows

Married people are healthier than the rest of the population, according to new research carried out on behalf of the US Government. The study, carried out by Mathematica, a public policy research firm, found that marriage reduced unhealthy behaviours, increased the likelihood of having health insurance and improved mental health.

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Government plan to use schools as child care facilities

The Government plans to use school buildings are to be used to provide thousands of childcare places for children of school-going age. Brendan Smith, the Minister for Children said the Department of Education and school boards of management will begin talks as part of a drive to provide between 5,000 and 10,000 new school-age childcare places.

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Government should give incentives to stay at home parents, says Bishop

The Government should give tax incentives to encourage "at least one parent to remain at home with babies and young children", according to a prominent Catholic bishop.

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Prosecutor calls on Canadian courts to review polygamy laws

One of Canada's top lawyers has recommended Canadian courts be asked to rule on the constitutionality of the country's long-standing laws against polygamy, officials said on Wednesday. It is the latest attempt in Canada to radically redefine marriage.

Same-sex marriage is already legal in Canada and if polygamy is eventually recognised it will mean that marriage is no longer limited to a man and a woman or to two people. Independent prosecutor Richard Peck made the call to rule on constitutionality in relation to a case concerning a U.S.-linked religious community that has openly practiced polygamy in Western Canada for years.

But Peck has recommended that criminal charges not be filed against the community. He claimed the charges, which relate to sex with underage girls, would not likely results in convictions on the "available evidence". However he added that the case left unanswered the broader issue of how Canada should handle the issue of ‘plural’ marriage.

"The legality of polygamy in Canada has for too long been characterized by uncertainty," Peck wrote in a report to British Columbia's attorney general that was released to the media on Wednesday.

"Polygamy is the underlying phenomenon from which all the other alleged harms flow, and the public interest would best be served by addressing it directly," Peck wrote, saying the province should put the issue to the courts in the form of a specific question rather than a criminal case.

B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal told local media his office was considering Peck's report, but might still press criminal charges so the constitutional issue would be raised by the defendants. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police had recommended charges be filed against unspecified members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).

Police launched the investigation in 2006 following media reports that leaders of the FLDS community in Bountiful, in southeastern British Columbia, had forced underage girls into marriages with older men.

Peck said he supported a decision by provincial prosecutors not to file criminal charges because of the unlikelihood of a conviction. Some of the female witnesses were reported to be unwilling to co-operate.

Plural marriages are illegal in Canada, but British Columbia prosecutors have been averse to press charges against the members of the FLDS for years out of concern the law could be struck down on the basis of religious freedom.

Oppal had asked for the independent prosecutor's review of the RCMP report because of concerns over gaining convictions and the constitutionality of the law.

The FLDS is a breakaway sect of the Mormon Church that is believed to have about 10,000 members in Utah, Arizona, Texas and British Columbia. The community in Bountiful on the U.S.-Canada border was established in the late 1940s.

The group's U.S. leader, Warren Jeffs, is awaiting trial in Utah on charges he was an accomplice to rape for using his authority to order a 14-year-old girl against her wishes to marry and have sex with her 19-year-old cousin.


Good(ish) news on the divorce front, new figures show

There are only a small increase in the number of divorces last year according to the Central Statistics Office. The new data shows that there were 3,466 divorces granted in 2006, compared with 3,411 in 2005. The number of judicial separations granted also increased, but by a larger amount, from 973 in 2005 to 1099 in 2006.

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UK Bishops give cautious welcome to new cohabitation proposals

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have given a cautious welcome to a report which proposes new rights for cohabitees. The report by the Law Commission, an independent body which advised the UK Government on legal reform, has proposed give unmarried couples divorce-like rights, should they split up after a minimum period.

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Cohabitees to get "divorce-like rights" in UK

An influential law commission in the UK has recommended that unmarried couples who split up be given the right to make divorce-style claims for financial support from their partners. The commission has concluded that couples with children, or those who have been living together for a minimum period should be able to seek most of the same financial remedies as people going through a divorce.

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Surrogacy row toddler to be taken from natural mother

A child at the centre of a surrogacy battle is to be taken from the natural mother who has brought him up for 17 months and given to the couple with whom she made the agreement.

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Pro-family columnist Ronan Mullen elected to Senate

In a major electoral shock, prominent family values campaigner Ronan Mullen has been elected to the Senate. Describing his win as "a triumph for positive values”, Mr Mullen said that he would now dedicate himself to “carefully scrutinising legislation” for its impact on families.

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Government civil union plans “a real concern” says Archbishop Brady

Archbishop Sean Brady, the Primate of All Ireland, has warned the Government not to undermine marriage by legalising gay marriage “in all but name”. Dr Brady, the President of the Irish Bishop's Conference, was reacting to comments last week by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, in which he said that the Government would legalise gay civil unions “at the earliest opportunity”.

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Court rules that Bishop guilty of “unlawful discrimination” against gay man

The Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, has been found guilty of unlawful discrimination after he refused a gay man a youth official's job on the diocesan board of finance. Gay campaigners have called on the Bishop to resign in the wake of the tribunal ruling.

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New case may decide rights of sperm donors

A man who acted as a sperm donor to a lesbian couple, resulting in the birth of a boy, now one year old is seeking joint custody of the child. The case has potentially wide-ranging implications as it may mean recognising for the first time that sperm-donors have rights to their children. The case may also see an Irish court recognise for the first time that a child has a right to know its biological parents even when the parent is a sperm or egg donor.

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Majority of working mothers in US would prefer to work part time, finds study

A new majority of US working mothers would be happiest in part-time jobs, with fewer seeing full-time work as an ideal, according to a new study. In 1997, 48 per cent of working mothers expressed this preference. Now, 60 percent of employed mothers find part-time work most appealing, a 12 per cent jump in 10 years.

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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.