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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 Ł10,000 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)

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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.

Announcing the amendment, which will replace Article 42.5 of the Constitution Taoiseach Bertie Ahern reassured voters that it will not alter the rights currently enjoyed by the family.

Mr Ahern said the amendment would not "undermine the role of parents or the constitutional safeguards for the family”. Brian Lenihan, the Minister of State for Children added that, if the amendment were passed “it will be neither easier nor more difficult for a child to be taken into care”.

The Government was worried about opposition to the wording from pro-family and parents' rights groups, including the Catholic Church. The Church is still studying the wording, and no response will be forthcoming until after the Bishops meet in Maynooth in early March for their latest quarterly meeting.

At Monday's press launch of the wording, Mr Lenihan added that the Government was “in total agreement with (Supreme Court judge) Mr Justice Hardiman who, in a recent much publicised Supreme Court decision, said the welfare of the child is best secured in his or her natural family. Nothing in this amendment seeks to change that position.”

The amendment, which contains five article and eight separate clauses, could go before voters in the spring, before the General Election, but is more likely to be delayed until after the election. Announcing the wording, Mr Ahern said he was committed to putting the referendum to the people "whether before the general election, or in the autumn".

The Government is determined that the Dáil and Seanad will pass the legislation necessary to order a referendum to be held within 90 days, he stressed.

The new wording will replace the current Article 42.5, which currently allows the State to “supply the place of the parents” where parents “fail in their duty” towards their children. The new Article, Article 42(A) provides that the State can intervene in the case of “any child”, no matter what the marital status of their parents.

The new wording will also provide for the voluntary adoption of children of married parents, something which is not currently not possible.

The proposed amendment will also allow for laws enabling “the collection and exchange of information relating to the endangerment, sexual exploitation or sexual abuse” of children. It will also allow the Government to make sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 18 a “strict liability”offence, that is, a crime allowing of no defence once the fact of sexual intercourse is proven.

This is intended to address the problem created by the decision of the Supreme Court last summer which held that the old legislation governing this area, which made sexual intercourse with a minor a strict liability offence, was unconstitutional, as it did not allow for a defence of “honest mistake”.

Children's rights groups, such as Barnardo's, the Children's Rights Alliance and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children gave a cautious welcome to the proposal, as did the Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan.

However, both Ms Logan and Barnardo's said that time was needed to debate the wording.

To read the proposed wording in full, click


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.