News Roundup

Minister’s referendum claim fact-checked as false

Minister Catherine Martin has been corrected in X’s Community Notes after she falsely claimed that Article 41.2 of the Irish Constitution says that a woman’s place is in the home. The Government wants to delete and replace the provision in a referendum on March 8.

The text says that the State shall “endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home”.

The correction points out that Supreme Court Judge Marie Baker, Chair of the Electoral Commission, has already stated that the Constitution does not say a woman’s place is in the home.

Justice Baker clarified that the Constitution says that mothers provide an “important support” to society and shouldn’t “have to go out to work” due to “economic necessity.”

This echoed previous remarks made by Supreme Court Justice Susan Denham in a case more than 20 years ago.

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Aontú advocating for No-No vote in upcoming referendums

Aontú is the only political party in the Dail that is advocating a No-No to the referendum proposals on care and family.

Party leader Peadar Tóibín criticised the proposed inclusion of “undefined” amendments “with potentially huge consequences.”

“We would have welcomed a common-sense update to reflect a modern Ireland. But these are exceptionally poorly written,” Mr Tóibín said.

“The language in these amendments is unclear and confused and seriously questions the government’s competency. No-one is sure what a ‘durable relationship’ is,” he said.

“This is a huge problem. It will have unpredictable effects. We don’t know what it means in terms in terms of social welfare, taxation, succession, immigration, family law and beyond.”

He added that even the supposed benefits of the changes, committing the state to “strive” to support carers in the home, was really a case of “empty meaningless virtue signalling” by Government.

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£2,500 fine for posters rejecting extreme gender theory

A pensioner in England has been threatened with a substantial fine by her local council over posters she affixed to her own front door that reject the idea that a man can become a woman.

The front door display, which the Council labelled “hate speech”, includes materials from campaign groups Transgender Trend, Sex Matters, and Women’s Rights Network.

68-year-old Una-Jane Winfield was handed a Community Protection Notice (CPN) after the council received complaints she was displaying “transphobic” and “graphic” posters.

Winfield now faces prosecution and a £2,500 fine by Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council over the four small images and letters on the entrance to her west London home.

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Allow healthcare workers conscientious objection to euthanasia, says HSE

Any law enabling euthanasia in Ireland should permit conscientious objection for healthcare workers (HCWs), says the Health Service Executive (HSE). No ethical objection to euthanasia was expressed.

Dr Siobhán Ní Bhriain, the HSE’s national clinical director for integrated care spoke to the Oireachtas ‘Assisted dying’ committee Tuesday.

Ms Ní Bhriain talked to the HSE’s internal staff counselling service about the potential impact the introduction of a euthanasia regime could have on healthcare workers.

She says the counselling service’s experience of working with staff “involved in experiences that transgress their moral or ethical codes” is that it can negatively impact on their mental health and “can lead to feelings of self-blame, shame and a reduced ability to cope with other work-related stressors”.

She added: “The psychological impact of being witness to, or making decisions relating to, assisted dying, or indeed, involvement in the painful and prolonged death of a patient, have the potential to significantly transgress an individual HCW’s core values and their psychological and emotional wellbeing.”

She says: “Conscientious objection should be enabled as part of any legislation.”

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Virginia bishops urge laity to oppose euthanasia plans

The Catholic bishops of the US state of Virginia have raised concerns that euthanasia and assisted suicide could soon become legal in the state after legislation recently advanced in both the state House and Senate.

In a message, Bishops Michael Burbidge of Arlington and Barry Knestout of Richmond wrote to “implore” the faithful of their dioceses to contact their state senator and delegate and “urge them to reject assisted suicide legislation”.

“Every suicide is a tragedy. Assisted suicide facilitates tragedies, and makes the most vulnerable people even more vulnerable,” Burbidge and Knestout said. “Legalising it would place the lives of people with disabilities, people with mental illness, the elderly, and those unable to afford healthcare – among others – at heightened risk of deadly harm.”

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Govt refuses to release discussions on referendum implications

Former Attorney General Michael McDowell has attacked the Government over a failure to make public interdepartmental discussions about the implications of the upcoming referendums.

He said he had been refused access to 64 pages of notes and minutes discussing the consequences of the amendments including tax laws, social welfare laws, pension laws, allocation of family assets, alimony and allowances and laws in relation to family reunification for asylum seekers.

Roderic O’Gorman’s Department said in withholding records of 16 meetings to allow access would be “premature” and might affect “the integrity and viability of the referendums”, which Mr McDowell said was a “flawed” decision.

“The Department apparently wishes to suppress all information in the minutes of the cross-Departmental meetings until after the people have voted,” he said.

He went on: “The Department’s decision perverts the democratic process which requires giving the people all the facts before they vote in a referendum.”

 

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Over 7,000 couples given marriage preparation by Accord last year

Over 7,000 couples over the whole of Ireland were prepared for the Sacrament of Marriage by the Bishops’ marriage agency, Accord, in 2023. Over four in ten (44pc) were in a relationship for between six and ten years before marrying. A quarter already had children.

The total of 7,262 represented a slight decline from 7,470 couples in 2022, but that was a catch-up year after the pandemic.

The majority of couples, 59pc, were in the 31-40 age bracket, while 28pc were aged 21-30 and 7pc were 41-50.

44pc had been in a relationship for 6-10 years, while 30pc were a couple for 3-5 years.

Only 6pc married within two years of starting a relationship.

72pc of the couples did not have children in their relationship at the time of marriage while 25pc did have.

8pc had children from a previous relationship.

Accord also released a revised and updated programme for marriage preparation which incorporated the latest developments in couples’ research and recent insights of the papal magisterium, particularly from Amoris Laetitia of Pope Francis.

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Not every ‘durable relationship’ will be a family, claims Taoiseach

The Taoiseach has claimed that the recognition of a ‘durable relationship’ would not be sufficient to confer family status. However, No campaigners have said the Government cannot know in advance how the courts will interpret “durable relationships” and Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman has admitted the same.

Mr Varadkar was speaking at the launch of Fine Gael’s campaign for a Yes-Yes vote in forthcoming referenda on family and on carers.

He said the Govt chose the word ‘durable’ over ‘committed’ or ‘intimate’ relationships, but denied it necessarily implies a family.

“Lots of people have all sorts of durable relationships – business relationships, for example, that might go on for decades. Nobody’s going to be able to drop down to the courts and say that makes them a family.”

This is because there are other tests that are set out in the Constitution already, he said.

“A family must be the natural, primary fundamental unit in society, it must be a moral institution, with inalienable and imprescriptible rights as the necessary basis of social order and indispensable for the welfare of the State,” he said, quoting some Constitutional phrasing.

“So those are the kinds of things the court will have to look at, but the intention, the plan here is very clear.”

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Govt snubs women religious on St Brigid’s day

The Government has been accused of erasing the contribution of women religious from its official programme for St Brigid’s day, with just one event in Irish embassies across the world acknowledging their work.

The State has “very short memories”, according to Sr Sheila Kelleher PBVM. Only for the work of women religious, “there’d be no foundation for Catholic education, no foundation for the State at all”, she said, “but that’s not acknowledged”.

Sr Kathleen McGarvey OLA called the omission a “blindness, whether its conscious or unconscious”.

Founder of the Children’s Grief Centre, Sr Helen Culhane of the Sisters of Mercy, said “It’s very disappointing” the work of women religious was overlooked, asking: “By not doing it they obviously have an issue, so what is their issue?”

She also asked why many women religious won’t raise their voice and stand up for themselves, saying: “Where is the voice of women religious? They don’t want to be quoted. I’ve been interviewed by journalists for the last 17 years, I’ve never had a backlash from anything I’ve said. What witness are we giving as religious? It raises the bigger question, what are they afraid of?”

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Staff frustrated after Catholic college suspends dialogue on merger

Staff at Mary Immaculate teacher training college (MIC) are “deeply frustrated” after the suspension of a historic dialogue meant to safeguard the college’s future.

Prof. President Eugene Wall’s announcement came after he and University of Limerick (UL) President Kerstin Mey failed to find “a meeting of minds” with Department of Higher Education officials on January 25.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris previously told the two institutions to go back to the drawing board after almost year-long negotiations failed to propose a suitable model.

Sources told The Irish Catholic, however, that staff fear the college has been left “strategically weaker” by the failed dialogue process, described as potentially “one of the most important strategic developments” in the college’s 125 year history.

According to union officials, staff were told the purpose of the dialogue was to achieve university level status and solidify MIC’s position in the higher education landscape.

Now, younger staff in particular feel the future is “very unsure and uncertain”, sources said. The dialogue made it “more unclear”, despite being intended enhance “structural alignment” between the two institutions.

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