Marriage and the family: script from Monday night’s Frontline

I was on Frontline last night on RTE debating the family. Senator Ivana Bacik and I had to read out an opening statement at the start of the show briefly setting out our cases. Here is my script.

“The family in Ireland has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Divorce and separation are up 500 percent. Cohabitation is up 400 percent. The number of children being raised without a married mother and father now accounts for more than one in four of all children.

Should we be concerned? The answer is Yes if we still believe in the incomparable value of being raised by a loving mother and father.

This right is at the centre of the debate about the family whether we are discussing divorce, cohabitation, gay and lesbian families, single parent families.

We know, of course, that circumstance can deprive a child of a mother or a father, or even both parents. We also know that all types of families can do a very good job raising children.

At the same time we must look at the evidence. And all the evidence is that children normally do best when raised by their own married mother and father.

Because this form of the family is so good for children, it means it should receive special support. This is not discrimination because it is not discrimination to treat different situations in different ways. The married family is uniquely pro-child and therefore it should receive unique and special treatment.

Of course, all families in need should receive help, and all families should receive certain legal protections. That includes gay and lesbian couples.

But there remains a very compelling, evidence-based argument for giving special support to the married family because this maximises the chances of a child being raised by their own mother and father in a loving, stable home and this is still something we should aim for as a society.”