News Roundup

Minister welcomes Boxing Association investigation into Christian event

Green Party Minister Catherine Martin has welcomed plans by the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) to reconsider the use of the National Stadium by Christian groups opposed to aspects of the new Social Personal and Health (SPHE) curriculum, including gender ideology. The move is being seen by many Christians as an attempt to crack down on opposition to the State programme.

The probe follows an “SPHE information evening” held at the stadium. It was organised by Christian Voice Ireland, a coalition of Evangelical Christian groups and churches. A similar event was held at the stadium in July, but this time activists contacted the IABA to protest against the event.

The use of the stadium for the event was questioned by far-left TD Mick Barry, who asked whether the IABA are “not concerned that their own Diversity and Inclusion Policy, which includes LGBTQ people, is being breached by hiring the hall out to this particular church?”

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for the IABA said the event did not reflect its views and confirmed that it would investigate the use of the stadium.

Minister Martin – whose department holds the sports brief – welcomed the association’s review of how the stadium was used.

“They weren’t aware of the exact use of it and I’m glad that they have said that they’d keep a much closer eye on their leasing arrangements,” she said in response to questions from The Journal.

“I think that is welcome.”


NI sex ed proposals causing anger, says former Police Ombudsman

The failure to consult parents about new regulations on Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) in the North has caused “massive anger,” according to Baroness Nuala O’Loan.

Writing in the Irish Catholic, the former Police Ombudsman said education is a devolved matter for the Assembly and when a law was introduced in Westminster in June without any prior consultation, providing that pupils must be made aware of abortion access, it provoked anger among the parents.

She described this as “typical of the contempt with which the government treats the people of the North now”.

Encouraging parents to participate in the Department for Education’s consultation on guidance and support material, Baroness O’Loan said that it “will give people an opportunity to challenge what has happened, to call for clear, unqualified parental rights to withdraw children and for the provision of information which really is clear, scientific and accurate”.


Northern pro-lifers vow to continue as exclusion zones confirmed

Pro-life work will continue in Northern Ireland despite the arrival of so-called “Safe Access Zones”, according to one prominent advocate.

The exclusion zones come into effect today and are designed to stop any pro-life presence outside hospitals and clinics that provide abortion.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic newspaper, Director of Precious Life, Bernadette Smyth said that while they will need to be more “creative” with regards to their work and that they may have to do things differently, they’re “not going away”.

She also raised an apparent inconsistency between the operation of exclusion zones in England and Wales in contrast to Northern Ireland.

“In early September, the UK home secretary Suella Braverman announced that silent prayer near abortion facilities is not a crime in the UK. That really encouraged us because she has written to every police force in the country to clarify that silent prayer, in itself, is not unlawful,” Ms Smyth said.

“I have written to my MP, Ian Paisley Jr, and I’ve asked for clarity regarding this statement by the home secretary. Does this apply to Northern Ireland?”

“We need clarity from our MPs, . . . that we can continue, even if it’s silent prayer.”


‘Abortion Exclusion Zones’ bill passes first Dáil vote

A bill to create exclusion zones around medical facilities that provide or administer abortions has passed its first vote on its way to becoming law. Very few countries have national laws preventing pro-life activities near centres that conduct abortions.

The Health (Termination of Pregnancy Services) (Safe Access Zones) Bill 2023 was approved in the Dáil by 113 to 10 votes.

It will now go to a committee stage to be examined in far greater detail.

Responding to the vote, a spokesperson for Aontú said “Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, Labour and PbP have voted on mass for censorship zones around all abortions clinics in Ireland”, adding: “the right to peaceful respectful protest is being eroded”.

The Pro-Life Campaign said it was “tragic that such a regressive and draconian piece of legislation as the #SafeAccessZonesBill was rail-roaded through the Dáil”.

“We owe a lot of gratitude to the 10 TDs who bravely voted against it.

“Once the unintended consequences and discriminatory nature of this law is realised, many government TDs may start to have buyer’s remorse”.


Concern over record levels of STI’s in Mid-West

Public health doctors have expressed concern about unprecedented levels of the sexually transmitted infections chlamydia and gonorrhoea in the Mid West so far this year.

Last year 798 cases of chlamydia were recorded – a 20% increase on 2019 – while 188 cases of gonorrhoea were also recorded – a 41% increase on 2019.

These were the highest numbers recorded for both infections over the past ten years.

So far this year, 664 cases of chlamydia have been recorded and 274 cases of gonorrhoea.

Dr Kenneth Beatty described the rising incidence as “an issue of public health concern”.

“For males and females, chlamydia and gonorrhoea can lead to painful inflammatory diseases, which can lead to infertility,” he said.

He said that wearing a condom correctly and availing of frequent testing is “the most practical way” to prevent infections.


State to pay for embryos to be stored for up to two years

A new State-funded fertility treatment scheme will include the freezing of embryos for up to two years, the Health Service Executive has confirmed.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, the HSE’s Dr Cliona Murphy said: “A full publicly funded cycle of IVF will comprise of one episode of ovarian stimulation.

“That’s developing the eggs and then transferring any resultant fresh or frozen embryos until such time as all embryos have been used – or the treatment results in a live birth.

“This means frozen embryos could be used in future attempts, so potentially somebody could get pregnant on the third try of that cycle.”

The funding includes specific treatments at private fertility clinics nationwide.

The cost of these varies from €900 for IUI while one round of ICSI costs upwards of €5,700.

Free treatment in fertility clinics will not be offered to same-sex couples, single people or couples using donated eggs or sperm, though that will change when a forthcoming AHR bill passes the Oireachtas.

It will be offered to applicants who are in a relationship with their current partner for at least one year. There is no requirement to be married.


Call for Irish law to allow ’goodwill payments’ to surrogate mothers

Irish people should be allowed make ‘goodwill payments’ to women willing to carry a baby for them in a surrogacy arrangement, according to Senator Mary Seery Kearney.

Such arrangements are banned in almost all European countries on the grounds that it exploits poor women and commodifies babies.

Speaking to Prime Time regarding upcoming legislation to enable both domestic and international surrogacy, the Fine Gael Senator said she is not in favour of commercial surrogacy, which involves an agency being paid to facilitate a surrogacy arrangement and hire a surrogate. However, she said there should be provision for a ‘goodwill payment’ to be given directly to the surrogate from the contracting couple. However, critics say a ‘goodwill payment’ is effectively a fee.

While the legislation is due to ban commercial surrogacy in Ireland, it is being debated whether it may allow Irish couples and single people to make commercial arrangements abroad and then bring a baby home.

If the bill does not allow it, Senator Kearney says there will be a demand for ‘hidden payments’ that could be used to coerce Irish applicants.


‘Assisted dying’ being used as a remedy for all suffering, committee hears

An expert in assisted suicide says he fears the practice is increasingly viewed as a remedy against all kinds of suffering.

Former supporter turned critic of the Netherlands’ right-to-die laws, Theo Boer, a professor of healthcare ethics, told a Dáil committee yesterday that his country’s euthanasia laws turned the whole landscape of dying, illness, suffering, and ageing upside down.

Speaking to the Oireachtas joint committee on ‘assisted dying’, he said the number of people availing of it in the Netherlands has quadrupled in 20 years, from just under 2,000 people in 2002 to almost 9,000 in 2022.

In some neighbourhoods, assisted suicide/euthanasia account for 15pc to 20pc of all deaths, he said.

He also said there has been an expansion of the reasons for it — from those who feared spending their final days in pain and agony to patients today fearing loneliness, alienation and care dependency.

Independent Senator Ronán Mullen asked whether there was any reduction in suicides where euthanasia was legalised.

Professor Boer said that in the Netherlands, in some categories of those allowed to engage in euthanasia, the number of suicides has risen against expectations.

“There is no reason to assume that allowing euthanasia will bring down the number of suicides.”


UK: Gender ideology distorting civil service’s impartiality

Senior civil servants in the UK have warned of a “woke takeover of Whitehall” that risks “improperly” influencing Government policy.

The Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case, was told in a letter signed by 42 staff from 16 departments that ideology on gender promoted by trans activists has become embedded in the Civil Service in a “significant breach of impartiality”.

It says the concept that “everyone has a gender identity which is more important than their sex” is “treated as undisputed fact”.

Staff who dare to air gender-critical views – meaning they believe there are two biological sexes that cannot be changed – suffer “serious harassment” at work and live with a “pervasive fear” they will be victimised, the letter adds.

As a result, it says, the operation of government is being “distorted” and the authors plead for “urgent action to ensure that Civil Service impartiality is upheld, and freedom of belief is respected”.


Natural population increase down 50% in ten years

The natural increase in population has halved in the last ten years, according to the latest figures from the CSO.

This tallies with Ireland’s trend of falling fertility rates and an aging population.

Last year, there was a natural increase of 20,000 people in the State comprised of 55,500 births and 35,500 deaths. In 2013, the natural increase was almost 40,000.

The figures were released in the Population and Migration Estimates for 2023.

While the natural rise in population was modest, the overall rise was 97,600 people which was the largest 12-month increase since 2008.

There were 141,600 immigrants which was a 16-year high.

Of those immigrants, 29,600 were returning Irish citizens, 26,100 were other EU citizens, and 4,800 were UK citizens. The remaining 81,100 immigrants were citizens of other countries including almost 42,000 Ukrainians.

Over 64,000 people departed the State in the 12 months to April 2023, compared with 56,100 in the same period of 2022. This was one of the highest figures of recent years.

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