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Opinions contained in The Iona Blog are not necessarily those of The Iona Institute. The Iona Blog is open to anyone who broadly shares the views of The Iona Institute. If you wish to post a comment on a relevant topic please email 200 – 400 words to firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be considered for inclusion in the blog.
Let’s forget for a moment about the upcoming referendum on same-sex marriage and consider instead the disastrous attitude of our Government and opposition parties towards marriage overall. Taoiseach Enda Kenny summed it up very well last week when he reduced what marriage is all about to two words, “I do”.
Frances Fitzgerald’s speech last night introducing the Children and Family Relationships Bill to the Dail was a masterpiece of evasion, in particular when she commented on the aspects of the Bill dealing with Donor Assisted Human Reproduction (DAHR). Here's what she had to say: “The Bill will not change the rights of most children in terms of parentage. A child who is the natural child of a heterosexual couple will have exactly the same parentage rights as at present. That child will continue to be the child of his or her birth mother and natural father. However, two categories of children will get the chance to GAIN a parent or parents as a result of this Bill. A donor-conceived child will get the right, under this legislation, to gain a second parent. As it stands, if the child is born to a female same-sex couple, that child has only one legally recognised parent if the donor is unknown.”
It’s fair to say that Fintan O’Toole doesn’t like the section on the Irish Constitution that deals with the family, that is to say, Article 41. In his column in Tuesday's Irish Times he associates it with de Valera’s Ireland and finds the article to be more or less incomprehensible.
Stephen Fry’s latest attempt to remind the world just how relevant and intelligent he is has brought Irish media legend Gay Byrne into the debate. In his show “The Meaning of Life,” Gay asked Fry what he would say, should he encounter God at the Gates of Heaven (assuming Saint Peter has given him a pass)? His response: “I’ll say, ‘Bone cancer in children? What's that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that’s not our fault. It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?”
Two French families who had their daughters mixed up in hospital have been awarded over two million euro worth of damages in court. When a child is separated from their natural family by accident, it's a tragedy. But what if the child is separated from one or both of their biological parents on purpose? Isn't that a violation of rights too? That's the question supporters of sperm and egg donation and surrogacy have to answer.
We should be grateful to The Irish Times for setting out in its editorial today such a comprehensively adult-centred view of marriage. The newspaper is entirely happy to completely separate the issue of children from the issue of marriage and never thinks to ask whether this is actually a good thing or not. It's not, of course.
The Government has decided to call the Bill to amend the Constitution and permit same-sex marriage," The Thirty-Fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015". Giving it such a completely loaded name, entirely favourable to the Yes side has been called into question by legal academic, Dr Seán Ó Conaill. Dr Ó Conaill believes calling it this is constitutionally doubtful as it immediately biases voters in favour of it.
There's a persistent idea on the Yes side that notions that the idea of a child having a “right to a mother and father” or “a right to a relationship with their genetic parents” is a nonsense argument because – or so the reasoning goes – the state can't guarantee it. Their mother might tragically die, their father might walk out, and there's not much anyone can do about it. This case is made with particular regularity and force by journalist Vincent Browne. But what would happen if we applied this logic to a few other rights? How about the most basic one – the right to life?
The usual hand-wringing continues. Peter McGuire at the Irish Times is all in a tizzy about gender imbalances at professor-level in our universities. Apparently it’s all discrimination of one kind or another and has nothing to do with the choice many women make in the real world about how to properly balance home and work.
Former Justice Minister, Attorney General and PD member, Michael McDowell may dissent from liberal orthodoxies on matters of economics but he has always been reliably liberal on social issues and therefore it is no surprise that he is for same-sex marriage. But I’m not sure about his reasoning.
Sean O’Rourke on his show today (23/1) put it to Leo Varadkar that he has previously stated that children have a right to a mother and a father. The Minister said he was quoted out of context. That is not the case.
The announcement by Health Minister, Leo Varadkar, that he is gay resulted in a spate of programmes yesterday that debated same-sex marriage. Iona Institute representatives appeared on The Pat Kenny Show, The Last Word and Claire Byrne Live. David Quinn, Breda O'Brien and Ben Conroy all made appearances.
Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World should be required reading for anyone interested in social policy questions. In Huxley's "happy dystopia", the ties of flesh and blood have absolutely no importance. All children are conceived in test-tubes, and veryone is selected and conditioned as embroyos to fulfill a particular societal function, with those that don't measure up being discarded. When I read stories like the following one about the fertility industry in Hollywood, I often think of Huxley. To cut a long story short, one sperm donor has fathered at least 23 children with 23 mothers and the mothers found many of them live within a stone’s throw of each other.
The Irish Times has recently been running a series of interviews with Irish people from all walks of life, and this week's one is particularly worth reading. Annmarie Boles is a stay-at-home mother, and writes articulately and persuasively about her experience. For her, working full-time in the home is not a second-best option, or something that she's been forced into.
"How can marriage campaigners better reach out to single parents?" asks Ashley Maguire in a blog on The Institute for Family Studies' website. She thinks the pro-marriage movement can learn from the pro-life movement, particularly from the latter's successes in the United States, where 231 pro-life laws have been passed at the state level since 2014. Maguire looks at an Atlantic article by David Frum which analyses the development of the US anti-abortion movement since Roe VS Wade.
At a minimum we ought to be able to agree that there are two lives to be considered in the latest right-to-die/right-to-life case to come to our attention, namely the tragic case of the pregnant woman who is clinically brain-dead but whose unborn baby has a chance at life. However, to judge from much pro-choice commentary on the matter to date, only the mother is being considered, or the wishes of her family. The life of the baby does not weigh in the balance at all. That is wrong.
Writing in the Atlantic magazine, Alana Samuels has an article about a new phenomenon: the increasing numbers of single women and lesbian couples who are seeking sperm donors who will take an active role in their children's lives, as distinct from no role, which is the preferred option of most people who used donor sperm to have children. Dawn Pieke is a single woman who wants her child to have a relationship with her sperm-donor dad. The dad is Fabian Blue, a gay man she met online on a website for people who wanted to have kids and raise them together, but without a romantic relationship. This is what's known as ‘Platonic parenting’.
The BAI (Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) has been facing a backlash ever since it ruled that an item on Newstalk’s Breakfast Show breached the broadcast regulations by being excessively biased in favour of same-sex marriage. The Breakfast Show had to read out the ruling last week. A similar ruling was made against the Mooney Show a few months ago. The BAI has to stand its ground in the interests of democracy.
Independent TD Mattie McGrath spoke recently about his Private Members’ Bill entitled The Disability (Amendment) Act 2014 during a press conference organised by the advocacy group Every Life Counts. Deputy McGrath seeks to regulate against the continued use of the phrase “incompatible with life.” Another key word in his statement was “dehumanising.” Indeed.
A debate over ‘assisted suicide’ is already taking place in Ireland and is only going to gain in intensity over time as the population ages, healthcare costs increase and notions of personal autonomy continue to override other important social and moral goods.
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