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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 Labour's civil partnership Bill would legalise gay marriage and “give rise to an emotive debate which we would be far better to avoid”. 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.

Dr Mansergh wrote the Foreword to the paper and recommended that his colleagues read it and that it be taken into consideration as the Government formulates its thinking on the issue.

He said that it was crucial that proposed legislation should not run the risk of being ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. “There is no point in passing legislation in this House that we know in advance is unlikely to pass the constitutional test,” he said.

Public support for changing the meaning of marriage was not as widespread as might be assumed from public opinion poll findings. Such surveys, he said, had a very poor record over the past 22 years as a guide to the outcome of a referendum, once the public becomes engaged in the argument and battle-lines are drawn.

Many people, he continued, would not accept that a cohabiting relationship, heterosexual or gay, was “an ideal just as worthy of promotion by educators as marriage”. Such a proposal might result in what Dr Mansergh called “interesting clashes between a radical equality ethos and the ethos of the vast majority of our schools”.

The proposed legislation, he said, was not an issue he could recall “being raised with me hardly at all face-to-face in my constituency from any angle, either for or against”. While he said that there was a need for reform, he pointed out that this would come at a cost.

Unlike the decriminalisation of homosexuality, recognising gay marriage would mean incuring significant revenue cost. Capital taxes were a big earner for the State, he pointed out. These fell heavily on other categories of relations, not on married couples. Extending the exemption on capital taxes to non-marital couples would cut tax revenues, he argued.

There should be no necessity for there to be a physical relationship in the case of civil partnership. There was a danger in any legislative scheme that confers tax advantages, that people will adopt a civil partnership, that is in practice normal or non-existent, purely to avail of the tax advantages, Dr Mansergh continued.

He said the two key questions in the debate were whether the primacy of marriage under the Constitution should be maintained, and the importance of protecting all who live together in dependent relationships, including siblings who were unable to participate in partnership arrangements. Siblings living under the same roof should “enjoy no less favourable tax arrangements on the decease of one of them than any other couple that are cohabiting,” Dr Mansergh said.

He said that he would favour “complete equality in all non-marital domestic partnerships”.

The value and social utility of marriage and the family based on marriage remains paramount, particularly for the upbringing of children, he insisted. “The social disadvantages of marriage breakdown, including its waning as an institution are well documented,” Dr Mansergh continued. Legislation which de facto permitted gay marriage would, he predicted, “give rise to an emotive debate which we are far better to avoid”.


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.

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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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"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.