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Limerick has highest rate of marital breakdown in country

Limerick is lreland's divorce capital, according to the latest figures from the Courts Services. More than 70 couples secured divorces or judicial separations at a sitting of the local Circuit Court in just one day.

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ISPCC calls for “united front” on children's referendum

A leading children's welfare group has called “a united front” to achieve a children's rights amendment to the Constitution. The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) said that such a referendum must stay “at the top of the political agenda and that a Referendum be held as soon as possible”.

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EU targets religious exemption

Ireland has been told to change its laws by the European Union because Irish equality legislation contains an exemption that allows religious-run institutions such as schools to protect their ethos by not hiring employees who could harm that ethos. The European Commissioner for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities, Vladimír Špidla, has begun legal action against 12 member states, including Ireland, France and Germany, for their ‘failure’ to fully or properly implement an EU employment directive.

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Same sex marriage an “attack on right of children to mother and father”

Recognising same-sex marriage would be an attack on the right of children to a mother and father, the director of the Iona Institute, David Quinn, told the Irish Times yesterday. Mr Quinn said that marriage as a social institution was designed primarily to ensure “that as many children as possible are raised by their mothers and fathers”, and therefore is “intrinsically heterosexual”.

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State run schools to provide range of religion classes for different faiths

Pupils in new State-run primary schools are to be taught religion according to their own faith, the Department of Education revealed yesterday.

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Increased use of IVF could mean “infertility timebomb”: report

Britain could be on the brink of an infertility timebomb due to the increasing use of IVF, according to a report in today's Daily Telegraph. According to the report, scientists worry that greater levels of IVF use means that couples with inherited fertility problems are able to have children and pass the condition on to the next generation.

Increases in obesity, sexually transmitted diseases and the number of women choosing to have children later in life are other potential factors in increased infertility. Unless there is some change in these patterns, scientists warn, one in three couples will struggle to have children within 10 years, compared with one in seven today.

Around one per cent of all births in Britain are the result of IVF or donor insemination and around 11,000 babies are born annually after fertility treatment. Each cycle of IVF costs between £4,000 and £8,000 and success rates are almost 30 per cent for women under the age of 35.

Writing in the British Medical Journal today, Prof Jens Peter Ellekilde Bonde, a professor of occupational medicine at Aarhus University in Denmark, and Prof Jørn Olsen, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, said: "With the advent of assisted conception, subfertile couples may have as many children as fertile couples, so that genetic factors linked to infertility will become more prevalent in the generations to come."

However, using fertility treatment to overcome genetic causes of infertility was unlikely to lead to a race of humans completely unable to conceive naturally, doctors said. Dr George Ndukwe, the medical director of Carefertility Nottingham, said: "The genetic component of infertility is largely in the male and is involved in sperm production. These men would never conceive naturally so by helping them conceive through IVF and ICSI (itra-cytoplasmic sperm injection) that component can be passed on and we counsel couples about this”.

More research should be carried out into the causes of infertility such as exposure to chemicals in the womb, and lifestyle and environmental factors, the scientists said.

Experts said there is some evidence that some men may have a genetic fault causing their low sperm count and there is a suggestion that some disturbances in ovulation may be caused by changes in the genetic make-up.

Allan Pacey, a senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, said: "The social changes over the last 30 or 40 years dwarf any genetic effect.

"The obesity problem, chlamydia and the tendency for smaller families and older mothers is having more of an effect on fertility than genetics."


Court ruling may force changes to birth certs to accommodate transsexuals

THE Government may have to repeal parts of Ireland's birth registration laws following a High Court ruling last November, which found that transsexuals have the right to have their birth certs retrospectively altered. Dr Lydia Foy, the person at the centre of that case, yesterday became the first recipient of a declaration of ‘incompatibility’ with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

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Postponing referendum puts children at risk, TD tells hearing

The Government's refusal to hold an early referendum on child protection this summer will place children at risk from sexual predators, according Fine Gael's spokesman on children Alan Shatter. Speaking at a hearing of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, Mr Shatter said that a gap in the law relating to statutory rape means that an adult who has sex with a child is able to offer a defence of "honest mistake" over a person's age.

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Fathers crucial for children's development says Swedish study

Children with an active father figure are less likely to experience behavioural and psychological problems, according to new research from Sweden. A team of researchers from the University of Uppsala analysed a series of studies on the impact of fathers on children's lives. The research found that active father figures have a key role to play in reducing behavioural problems in boys and psychological problems in girls.

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McDowell calls for rights for unmarried fathers

The fact that unmarried fathers do not have access rights to their children is “indefensible”, according to the former justice minister, Michael McDowell. He warned that, unless legislative action was taken by the Government soon, the European Convention on Human Rights would impose such rights on the Irish legal system.

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Support for marriage on the decline, poll suggests

Nearly half of voters approve of couples with children who are not married, according to a poll in last weekend's Sunday Independent. The survey, carried out by Milward Brown/IMS, found that, when asked whether they approved of couples with children not getting married, 49 per cent of people said yes. This figure rose to 70 per cent among 25 to 34 year olds.

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Children’s rights vote must not give State unnecessary powers over family, says Iona

The Government must ensure that its proposed referendum on children’s rights does not give the State unnecessary powers of intervention at the expense of the family” according to the Iona Institute. In a submission to the Oireachtas Committee examining the proposed wording, the Institute points out that the family is generally the place in which the interests of children are best protected. Any undermining of this presumption, even if unintentional, would ultimately be harmful to children, the submission says.

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Opposition grows to holding separate referendums on children

Children's rights group and the Children's Ombudsman are opposed to holding two separate referendums on children's rights and child protection. Organisations such as Children's Rights Alliance and the Cari Foundation (Children At Risk in Ireland) have expressed strong opposition to Government proposals to hold a referendum on child protection on the same day as the European Union reform treaty.

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Creation of embryo with three parents-report

Human embryos with three separate biological parents have been created for the first time by British scientists, according to reports in the UK. The embryos, created by IVF, each contain DNA from one man and two women. The project that created them could lead to the first genetically altered babies being born in Britain. But opponents have said that the project represents a threat to the family unit.

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State must acknowledge “spiritual dimensions of its citizens”, says Taoiseach

The State is bound to recognise “the spiritual dimensions of its citizens”, according to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Speaking at a reception in honour of Cardinal Sean Brady last night, Mr Ahern said that he rejected the belief that religion “should be confined to the public domain”. The idea that “all reference to God, and the behavioural and ethical implications of that belief” should be excluded from public debate was not one shared by the Government.

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Teachers shouldn't use terms “mum and dad”: guidelines

Teachers should not assume that their pupils have a mother and a father, according to new guidelines commissioned by the Government and produced by gay rights group Stonewall. They say primary pupils as young as four should be familiarised with the idea of same-sex couples to help combat homophobic attitudes.

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Allegations against Catholic schools "unfair and offensive": Cardinal Brady

Cardinal Sean Brady has said that allegations that Catholic schools are non-inclusive are “unfair and offensive”. Speaking at the annual conference of the Irish Primary Principals Network in Killarney, Cardinal Brady said that he was frustrated by suggestions that Catholic and other faith-based schools were divisive and inconsistent with a pluralist society.

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Schools principals' head calls for ‘rethink’ on Church schools

The head of the Irish Primary Principals' Network (IPPN), Sean Cottrell, has called for “a radical rethink” of the primary school system. Mr Cottrell, whose organisation has been holding its annual conference in Killarney this weekend, said that the State “needed to take control of more than paying teachers' salaries”.

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Archbishop of Canterbury criticises removal of need for fathers from new law

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has attacked proposals in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which would remove the reference to the need for donor-conceived children to have a father.

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Housing costs double in fifty years

Mortgages and high rents now consume 20 per cent of the typical weekly budget for most Britons, as compared to just 8.7 per cent 50 years ago, according to new figures. The findings, part of the Office for National Statistics’ Family Spending report, a one off study, showed that, when insurance, maintenance and water are included, housing accounts for 25 per cent of the typical household budget.

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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.