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Hayes claims parental choice for schools disguises “active prejudice”

Fine Gael spokesperson Deputy Brian Hayes has said that there is a danger that preserving religious schools in the name of parental choice will disguise “active discrimination”. In an interview with the Irish Times, he attacked the “secretive” manner in which he alleged negotiations between the Government and the Catholic Church were being carried out.

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Irish society becoming a “religion free zone”; Bishop Murray

A growing number of areas of Irish life are becoming religion free zones, according to the Bishop of Limerick, Dr Donal Murray. In an address on Tuesday at this year's Ceifin Conference in Ennis, Dr Murray said that assumptions that religion had no place in public discourse “did not seem to apply to agnostics or atheists.

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Redefine family in Constitution, say Greens

The definition of the family in the Constitution should be changed to give equal rights to couples who are not married, according to the Green Party. Greens' justice spokesman Ciaran Cuffe made the call after the party was accused of backing off recognising gay marriage.

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Dr Mansergh cites Iona paper in Dáil

Fianna Fáil TD, Dr Martin Mansergh, has said that “the value and social utility of marriage and the family based on marriage remains paramount, particularly for the upbringing of children”. In his speech on the Bill, Dr Mansergh cited ‘Domestic Partnerships: A response to recent proposals on civil unions,’ the Iona Institute's document on civil partnerships.

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New legislation set to cater for dependent cohabitants, says Minister

The Government's proposed domestic partnership legislation, scheduled to be introduced next year, will address legal protection of economically dependent cohabitants, according to Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan. He announced the measures after the Government rejected the Labour Party's proposed Civil Unions Bill, which would have created de facto gay marriage.

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Sweden to ban religious activity in schools

The government of Sweden is set to ban any religious activities in schools, including Church-run schools, apart from those directly related to religion classes. The new laws will also insist that religious ideas must not be taught as though they are objectively true.

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Two parents have foster child taken away over gay rights

Two foster parents with a record of caring for almost 30 vulnerable children are to have their latest foster son taken away from them because they have refused to sign new sexual equality regulations.

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Mortgage repayments “a heavy burden”, say one in five homeowners

A new survey has revealed that almost one-in-five home buyers say their mortgage repayments are "a heavy burden" while many more are struggling to make repayments. The survey, carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute for IIB Bank, found that almost three-quarters of mortgage holders (73 per cent) have said that they are finding it hard to meet repayments.

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Family role being eroded by the economy, says influential cleric

Market forces have dictated policy in areas such as the family, child care and care of the elderly for too long, Clare priest Fr Harry Bohan has said.

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Married families less likely to experience poverty, CSO finds

Households comprised of married couples with children are far less likely to experience consistent or basic poverty than other households, according to new data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO). According to new figures from the CSO's Statistical Yearbook of Ireland, two adults living with children have the lowest rates of poverty, 5.3 per cent, of any households with children.

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New report on EU families shows marriage in meltdown.

One couple divorces every 30 seconds in Europe, according to a new study focusing on family policy in the EU. The report, entitled the Evolution of the Family in Europe in 2007, also shows that marriage is increasingly unpopular with fewer and fewer couples getting married.

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Labour minister signals change on marriage

A senior Labour minister in the UK has signaled the possibility of a major shift in policy over marriage. Andy Burnham, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told a leading UK newspaper last week that marriage was “best for children”. He added that married couples should get tax incentives from the Government in recognition of the benefits their children and society gain as a result of the union.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Burnham said there is a "moral case" for promoting the traditional family through the tax system. "I think marriage is best for kids," he says. "It’s not wrong that the tax system should recognise commitment and marriage."

His remarks signal a 180-degree shift from previous Labour policy. Earlier this year, the Education Secretary Alan Johnson utterly rejected any suggestion that government should support marriage, amid calls from Conservative leader David Cameron to give married couples tax incentives. Other Government ministers, such as Ed Miliband, who is known to be close to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, refused to say marriage was the best family form for children.

As Chancellor, Mr Brown scrapped the married couple’s allowance, replacing it with a children’s tax credit paid to all parents. In his recent party conference speech, he said Labour stood for "a Britain that supports as first-class citizens not just some children and some families but supports all children and all families".

By contrast, Mr Cameron has placed support for marriage and the family at the heart of his manifesto for the next general election. It has been a cornerstone of his policy since his leadership of the Tories began.

Mr Burnham, who is married with three children, told the Telegraph that he is not "judgmental" about single parents, divorced people or cohabiting couples. "I don’t seek to preach to anybody," he says. "But in an abstract way I think it’s better when children are in a home where their parents are married and I think children do notice if their parents are married or not."

The tax system should, he adds, "recognise" the benefits of marriage for the good for society. "There’s sometimes a metropolitan myth that Labour people are all a bit liberal," he says. "I don’t think the Tories should have a monopoly on this kind of thinking…. This is totally where Gordon is coming from, your roots and your family are everything."

The signal that Labour are considering introducing tax incentives for marriage follows Iain Duncan Smith's social policy review for the Tories earlier this year, which proposed that there should be a transferable tax allowance for married couples in order to make it easier for mothers to stay at home with their children. They also vowed to remove benefit incentives that encourage couples to live apart.

Mr Burnham admits there is a "fault line" in the Labour Party between those who think the state should support marriage and those who do not. "One of Labour's strengths to me is that we're not judgmental about what happened to people in their lives," he says. "You help people in whatever circumstances they find themselves, but the system shouldn't be biased against marriage, it should recognise it."


All work and no play leading to growing strains on relationships, say Family Support Agency

Gruelling commutes combined with a lack of free time for families is leading to a growing number of marriages and relationships collapsing, according to the latest report by the Family Support Agency. More than 1,500 separating couples sought help from the Agency's mediation centres last year, with many blaming disputes arising from “time poverty”.

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Archbishop says that levels of religious knowledge need to be raised

Much remains to be done to raise basic levels of religious knowledge, according to the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin. Speaking at last weekend's religious knowledge conference in St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Dr Martin said that he believed that children at different ages should be expected to have growing levels of knowledge.

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Cohabitation leads to worse outcomes for health, children, says report

Cohabiting families tend to produce worse education outcomes for children, according to Focus on Families, a report from the UK's National Statistics Office.

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British figures show benefits of marriage

New figures from the UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS) show married people generally live longer and enjoy better health. The report, entitled Focus on Family, showed widowed men and single mothers suffered the worst health, with the greatest number of acute and chronic conditions.

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Family judges in bid to take divorce out of the courts

Britain's top family judges and lawyers have begun a campaign to ease the strains on divorcing couples by taking family law cases out of the courts. Family lawyers from the major divorce firms, along with senior judges, are backing a scheme being used in the US and Canada which encourages couples not to go to law when they separate.

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Fine Gael spokesman highlights “selective agenda” of Catholic schools

Fine Gael education spokesman Brian Hayes has called for a national forum on education and highlighted the position of Catholic schools in particular, stating: “The Catholic Church could not expect to continue the privileged position it had enjoyed for more than 150 years while pursuing a selective agenda at the same time.”

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Greater choice of schools necessary, says bishop

There is need for greater diversity in schooling in Ireland so as to respond effectively to the changing needs of parents and children, according to the Chairman of the Bishops’ Commission for Education, Bishop Leo O'Reilly. He made the statement of the launch of Catholic Primary Schools: A Policy for Provision into the Future, an outline of the Catholic Church's position on education in Ireland.

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Government backs UK against sisters for tax sovereignty reasons

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice has said that the Government's decision to file arguments with the European Court of Human Rights against a pair of elderly spinster sisters was taken on the grounds of national sovereignty. The statement was made to the Catholic newspaper Alive.

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Institute for Marriage and Public Policy

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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.