News Roundup

Child and Family Relationship Act to finally be fully implemented May next year, says Simon Harris

Two long delayed parts of the Child and Family Relationships Act will finally be commenced on 5th May 2020.

The announcement was made in the Dáil by Minister for Health, Simon Harris. The uncommenced sections of the Act regarded the legal parentage of children born to some same-sex couples. The Act became law in April 2015 in time for the same-sex marriage referendum. However, complications prevented its full implementation up to now.

Donation-conception is controversial because it involves a deliberate severing of the natural ties to at least one parent and may also involve deliberately depriving a child of either a mother or a father.

Meanwhile a new group has launched demanding ‘equality’ for children conceived for LGBTQ+ parents via sperm or egg donation.

Equality for Children say that many children of LGBT couples in Ireland are denied the right to have both of their parents legally recognised. They want this rectified in law.

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Rising and worrying levels of loneliness among older Irish adults

A new report has found “worrying” levels of isolation among over-50s.

Loneliness is most prevalent among over-75s and those living alone, the study by researchers in Trinity College Dublin found. It was also found to be damaging to the health and wellbeing of older adults, the loneliest of whom had poorer quality of life and health.

Depression is found in tandem with loneliness, with more than three-quarters of the most lonely group reporting depressive symptoms compared to just 7.4 per cent of the least lonely group.

Dr Mark Ward, the lead author of the study, said the report “highlights the fact that certain groups of older adults are particularly vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation. In particular, older adults who live alone are more socially isolated and report greater feelings of loneliness.”

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Surrogate mothers want their responsibility to end at birth

A group representing surrogate mothers in the UK has called for a law change to give a baby’s intended parents legal responsibility for the baby from the moment it is born. This is to ensure the surrogate would not be left with the baby if the commissioning parents wanted to abandon it.

Britain’s largest organisation for surrogates says plans to update the laws do not go far enough as they would still leave them with rights over the child for a period after the birth of the child.

At present parents whose child is carried by a surrogate must win a parenting order from a court to gain legal responsibility, a process that can take many months.

The law commission proposed that intended parents should become the legal parents from birth. However, it wants the surrogate mother to retain a right to object for a short period.

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Stormont Assembly to meet in bid to block abortion and same-sex marriage laws

The Stormont Assembly was due to meet Monday for the first time in almost three years to try and block Westminster-imposed laws on abortion and same-sex marriage coming into effect tomorrow. The bid is expected to fail.

Thirty-one Unionist MLAs signed a petition calling for the Assembly to be reconvened in a response to an appeal by Northern Ireland peer Baroness Nuala O’Loan. However, the session will not stop the planned legislation as that requires the restoration of a power sharing government, including the appointment of new ministers to a new Executive.

That requires the backing of the largest nationalist party Sinn Féin, which has branded the recall ‘a pantomime’. The SDLP and Alliance Party have both described it as a political stunt.

Meanwhile, the Irish bishops released a statement over the weekend pleading with the North’s politicians to stop abortion legislation from coming into effect.

Bishop of Clogher, Larry Duffy, said it is vitally important that political leaders in Northern Ireland face up to their responsibility to protect life, especially the life of the most vulnerable, including unborn babies and their mothers.

“I appeal to political representatives to set aside differences and to use the opportunity of the assembly meeting on Monday next and to assert their own authority on this critical question. The political impasse on this has gone on too long and has been cynically manipulated by the parliament at Westminster to remove legal protection for unborn babies in Northern Ireland up to 28 weeks in their mother’s womb.”

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Decline in number of Americans calling themselves ‘Christian’, says new survey

The percentage of American adults who describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion is down 12 percentage points over the past decade. That’s according to Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019 which found the current figure to be 65%.

Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.

Both Protestantism and Catholicism are experiencing losses of population share. Currently, 43% of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009. And one-in-five adults (20%) are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009. Meanwhile, all subsets of the religiously unaffiliated population – a group also known as religious “nones” – have seen their numbers swell. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up modestly but significantly from 2% in 2009; agnostics make up 5% of U.S. adults, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as “nothing in particular,” up from 12% in 2009. Members of non-Christian religions also have grown modestly as a share of the adult population.

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Ireland’s birth rate down 25% compared to Celtic Tiger period

People living in Ireland are having significantly fewer children now than a decade ago despite the thriving economy, the Central Statistics Office yearbook reveals.

Last year 61,016 babies were born in the Republic, the lowest figure since 2002. That is a fall of 1.6 per cent on 2017’s figure of 62,053 and almost 20 per cent down from the peak in 2009 when 75,554 babies were born.

Despite the fall in births, the population of the Republic has continued to increase because of inward migration and declining deaths and is now almost at 5 million. As a result of this the birth rate – the rate of births per head of population – has fallen even further.

Since the beginning of this century, birth rates in Ireland peaked at 16.8 births per thousand in 2008. It is now down to 12.6 births per thousand, a decrease of 25 per cent .

CSO figures due out at the end of the month will show the replacement rate for the population, which is an average of 2.1 children per woman, will fall below that figure, although the Republic still has one of the highest birth rates in the EU.

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Large group of MLAs sign pledge to restore Stormont to prevent abortion

31 MLAs, mostly DUP, have signed a petition to recall the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday to prevent an extreme abortion measure becoming law. It will totally decriminalise abortion up to the point of foetal viability outside the womb which is around 24 weeks.

The petition follows a call from Baroness O’Loan and involves recalling the Assembly to debate whether legislation on abortion would be most appropriately determined by the parliament in the North, rather than by Westminster.

Dawn McAvoy of Both Lives Matter commented, “The majority of people in Northern Ireland do not support the abortion regime being imposed by Westminster. Baroness O’Loan has consistently tried to prevent these changes and has led the calls to reconvene Stormont. Today 31 MLAs have heeded that call.”

McAvoy continues, “Northern Ireland has been without government for over 1000 days. Abortion is not, and never has been the stumbling block. We hope that it might now be the issue that helps bring the Assembly back. We recognise that there is not a unified position on abortion, but there does appear to be agreement that this should be decided at Stormont rather than Westminster. We have done all we can to allow each MLA to stand up and say whether they support the Westminster legislation or oppose it. It is over to them now.”

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96% of biologists affirm that life begins at conception

A University of Chicago academic has conducted research that found almost 96% of biologists surveyed think that life begins at conception.

The research by Steve Jacobs, PhD, found that 5,337 biologists (96%) who responded to a questionnaire affirmed that a human’s life begins at fertilization, with 240 (4%) rejecting that view. The majority of the sample identified as liberal (89%), pro-choice (85%) and non-religious (63%). In the case of Americans who expressed party preference, the majority identified as Democrats (92%).

The survey was for a working paper that was part of Mr Jacob’s dissertation for the University of Chicago’s department of Comparative Human Development.

While the view responds to the descriptive question of when human life begins, it does not answer the normative question of when ought a foetus be worthy of ethical value and legal consideration. However, an attendant survey of 2,899 American adults found that 81% selected biologists as the group most qualified to answer the question of when a human’s life begins, indicating that the great majority think the question can be answered descriptively, rather than normatively.

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Complementary-sex couples to get extra benefit to match same-sex couples

The Government will give mother and father couples the choice as to whether the man or woman avails of adoptive leave, because male same sex couples will be given the same choice.

The announcement was made by Minister of State for Equality David Stanton in the Dail on Wednesday during discussion on a bill to extend paid parental leave by two weeks.

That bill was originally meant to address a lacuna in the existing law whereby a married male same-sex couple cannot avail of adoptive leave, because it has only applied to an adopting mother, or a sole male adopter, or the adopting father when the mother dies.

However, “over the course of drafting, it became apparent, that in seeking to address an inequality, another inequality could be created,” the Minister said.

By allowing male same sex couples to choose which one of them could take such leave, they would have a right that complementary sex couples would not have.

Consequently, it was decided that legislation would have to cater to both situations. Furthermore, as it was considered too complex to include the bill currently going through the Oireachtas, the provision has been postponed for a future bill.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said however that the legislation constitutes a form of “discrimination against same-sex males who are in a relationship”, as they are “treated differently from same-sex females who are in a marital relationship, so it is a form of gender discrimination against same-sex male couples”. He added, “Similarly, it is discriminatory because a straight man who is adopting would not find himself in the same position as gay men will find themselves in respect of seeking parent’s benefit and leave, and so, in that regard, it is a form of sexual orientation-based discrimination”.

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Former captain of the Tyrone GAA ladies team to vote DUP due to abortion

A former captain of the Tyrone GAA ladies team has said she is considering voting for the DUP because of the party’s pro-life stance.

Lisa O’Hare said she can no longer vote for Sinn Féin or the SDLP because she does not agree with their enabling of an extreme abortion law being imposed on NI by Westminster.

“As an Irish Catholic who places God at the centre of my home and my heart we don’t have anyone who represents our views,” said Ms O’Hare.

That is why she is now looking “beyond the normal tribal differences and religious differences”.

She told the BBC’s The View programme that “the DUP is the only party” in Stormont who seem to be opposing these laws.

Mrs O’Hare, who captained the Tyrone ladies team to Ulster final glory in 2000, said she has grave concerns about changes voted through at Westminster.

“We’ve seen from the guidelines published this week that this is about targeting the most vulnerable in society,” she said

“As the mother of a son with Down’s Syndrome, the idea that he has been set apart as someone who is less valuable to society is abhorrent to me.

“Every life is precious and shouldn’t be judged on health, well being or social circumstance,” she added.

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