News Roundup

Couple seek damages over claim of destroyed embryos at fertility clinic

A husband and wife have taken a High Court action seeking damages claiming their five embryos stored at a fertility clinic became contaminated and had to be destroyed.

The couple, who had opted for embryo freezing before the woman had chemotherapy for breast cancer, claim they have lost the chance to have children.

They have sued Human Assisted Reproduction Ireland Ltd, with registered offices at Merrion Square, Dublin. It was in 2019 trading as Rotunda IVF at the National Fertility Centre in the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin and is now located in Swords Business Campus in north Co Dublin.

On March 12th, 2019, the couple were told 17 eggs had been harvested, eight had matured and five had fertilised. Two days later, it is claimed, they were informed that a serious adverse event had occurred in the laboratory—the possible contamination from another unidentified sperm sample—rendering their five embryos unusable.

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Highest number of MPs ever refuse religious oath

The UK has elected the most openly non-religious House of Commons in history, with roughly 40% of MPs during their swearing-in ceremony choosing to take the secular affirmation instead of a religious oath to God, up from 24% after the 2019 election.

The secular cohort include the Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer, who is an avowed atheist and 50% of the Cabinet.

The non-religious affirmation has been available since 1888 after a campaign by the atheist MP Charles Bradlaugh, who was previously prevented from taking his seat because of his refusal to swear to God, but whose constituents kept electing him in protest. Almost all MPs choosing it today do so because they are non-religious, although about a dozen are thought to choose it because their religious beliefs prohibit oaths.

Humanists UK said that the latest figures are a sign that ‘the UK is changing’ and that ‘with the country now majority non-religious, the fact that Parliament is gradually becoming more representative of society is a good thing.’

 

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Global population crisis offers ‘hopeful sign’ for planet, UN says

The global population is likely to peak earlier than expected and at a lower level, according to new UN projections.

However, despite warnings of a looming demographic crisis, a UN official has reacted positively, expressing hope that it will reduce pressure on the environment.

The analysis predicts there will be about 10.3 billion people by the mid-2080s, up from 8.2 billion this year.

The number is then expected to fall to about 10.2 billion by the end of the century, a figure 6% lower than was expected a decade ago.

Li Junhua, the UN undersecretary general for economic and social affairs, said: “In some countries, the birthrate is now even lower than previously anticipated, and we are also seeing slightly faster declines in some high-fertility regions.

“The earlier and lower peak is a hopeful sign. This could mean reduced environmental pressures from human impacts due to lower aggregate consumption.”

He warned, however, that “slower population growth will not eliminate the need to reduce the average impact attributable to the activities of each individual person”.
But demographers such as Paul Morland warn about the bad effects of an ageing population including far fewer workers compared with retired people.
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Pakistan: Desperate plea for Christian man put on death row

Local Church leaders have lambasted a court in Pakistan for passing the death sentence on a Christian man found guilty of ‘blasphemy’ in an incident that prompted one of the worst atrocities against minorities in the country’s history.

Bishop Samson Shukardin of Hyderabad, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, described as “very, very painful” the judgement handed down in the case of Ehsan Shan.

The Sahiwal Anti-Terrorism Court found Mr Ehsan guilty of blasphemy by allegedly sharing content deemed insulting to Islam and Mohammed on social media.

Mr Shan, a man from Sahiwal in his early 20s, was not accused of desecrating the Qur’an but of reposting an image of the damaged sacred text. Reports of the defiled script triggered a day of violence last August against Christians in Jaranwala, Punjab province, where more than 25 churches were torched and more than 80 Christian homes ransacked. Sentenced under numerous articles of the Pakistan Penal Code, Mr Shan was also sentenced to 22 years’ “rigorous imprisonment” and fined 1 million Pakistan Rupees.

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Switzerland bans futuristic ‘assisted dying’ pod

A futuristic suicide pod for ‘assisted dying’ has been banned by prosecutors in Switzerland weeks before it was set to be used for the first time.

Developed by Philip Nitschke, one of the founders of Exit International, whose Irish branch is led by Tom Curran, the ‘Sarco’ (short for sarcophagus), is a coffin-shaped machine that releases deadly nitrogen once activated from inside.

But now prosecutors in Switzerland’s Schaffhausen Canton have warned that anyone assisting someone to use the pods could face up to five years behind bars.

Public Prosecutor Peter Sticher warned of ‘serious consequences’ for Nitschke for ‘inducement and aiding and abetting suicide for selfish reasons’.

The ban followed after Nitschke revealed in an online forum on June 10 that Sarco’s deployment in Switzerland was expected ‘in the next few weeks.’

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Councillor wants prayers at council meetings stopped

There should be no prayers or religious iconography in city and county council chambers, a Cork councillor has said. Sessions of parliament in Britain, America, Ireland among other countries start with a prayer.

Social Democrat, Pádraig Rice, has spoken of his shock and surprise that council meetings still begin with prayer – with a crucifix hanging from the wall.

He has put down a motion calling for a “clear separation”  of Church and State – urging Irish people to “create a modern, pluralist republic of equals”.

“The people who voted for us come from all faiths and none, so I think it’s deeply inappropriate that we open our meetings with prayer [and] have religious iconography in the chamber – I just don’t see the need for it. I think it should be stopped”.

When asked if he thought that the crucifix should be retained as a piece of historical architecture, Cllr Rice said he thought that prayers and the crucifix are “all tied up together”.

“I think if we’re going to stop the prayer, we should probably remove the iconography as well.

“I think it’s all connected,” he said.

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Taskforce needed to address soaring abortion numbers, rally hears

The more than 10,000 abortions recorded last year is a “national scandal”, Independent TD Carol Nolan told the annual Rally for Life in Dublin on Saturday.

She also called for a taskforce to be established to tackle “soaring abortion rates”.

The founder of the Life Institute, Niamh Uí Bhriain, told the rally that those who opposed abortion may have lost the 2018 referendum but their numbers were growing.

“In March the Government was rocked to its core when its bid to remove the word mother from the Constitution received the largest No vote in the history of the State,” Ms Uí Bhriain said.

“A staggering 74 per cent of people ignored the media, ignored the political establishment, ignored the radically out of touch NGO’s [non-governmental organisations], to reject a referendum that we were told was going to pass easily.”

After the march arrived at the Customs House, Grammy award winning singer and songwriter, Kaya Jones, addressed the crowd by speaking of her own experience of abortion regret.

Jones spoke of how she felt pressured by the music industry to undergo abortions and how young women should learn from her “mistakes” and know their value and the value of human life more broadly.

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Archbishop of Canterbury and wife felt pressure to abort child with disability

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has said he and his wife felt pressure from doctors to have an abortion 32 years ago when health concerns were raised about their unborn child.

The couple proceeded with the pregnancy anyway and had a “precious” daughter named Ellie.

She has dyspraxia, a neurological condition that affects movement and coordination, but is not severely disabled.

He did not say whether they ever went ahead with the test.

“She lives with us at Lambeth. Before she was born, during the pregnancy, there was some concern and a test was offered. But it was made very, very clear to my wife [Caroline] that if the test was taken and proved positive, it would be expected that we asked for a termination. It was not a neutral process.”

He said that doctors told them it was “expensive” to raise a child with a disability.

Archbishop Welby added: “Ellie is exceptionally precious. She is precious because she is wonderful, she’s kind, she is someone who gets cross and is happy and is sad. She is not that severely disabled — she can travel around provided things go right. If trains get cancelled, that’s a bit of an emergency.”

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Iraqi Christians rebuilding after ISIS onslaught

Thousands of Christians have returned to the Nineveh Plains, years after they were driven from their homeland by militants of the Islamic State (ISIS).

“Words cannot describe what we experienced 10 years ago, ISIS tried to eradicate us, but they failed”, said Nizar Semaan, the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Adiabene, in Northern Iraq. “The people here are like olive trees. You can cut them, burn them, but after 10 or 20 years they will continue to give fruit. They tried everything, but we remain, and as a Church we do everything to give a sign of hope”, he added, during an online conference organised by the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Though outright violence has receded in Iraq, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda, who also took part in the conference, said that the current threat of a regional conflict involving Israel, Hamas, Lebanon and perhaps even Iran has Christians on edge, as they are aware that in these situations, they often become outright targets for fundamentalists or collateral targets in the wars of others.

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Mullen bill seeks to impose age restrictions for porn use

A Bill requiring online providers of pornography to carry out strict age verification to ensure that under-18s cannot access their material will come before the Seanad on Thursday

The Protection of Children (Online Age Verification) Bill 2024 has been introduced by Independent Senator, Ronan Mullen, and co-sponsored by Senators Michael McDowell, Sharon Keogan and Gerard Craughwell, and three Government Senators — Fianna Fáil’s Erin McGreehan, Diarmuid Wilson and Aidan Davitt.

In a statement, Senator Mullen said: “We all know that access to pornography online is a serious problem for our society and especially for young people. It harms them and affects their development on many levels”.

While the media regulator, Coimisiún na Meán, is producing a Code and Rules on this matter, it does not make robust age verification procedures mandatory for online providers of pornography.

“Without separate primary legislation — including criminal sanctions for breaches, the problem will continue to be tackled ineffectively”, he said.

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