News Roundup

Sinn Féin to support assisted suicide Bill moving to next stage

Sinn Féin have pledged to support the progress of new legislation which would permit assisted suicide. The Bill defines ‘terminal illness’ broadly and a person does not have have to be within a certain number of months of death to avail of it.

Speaking on Monday, Sinn Féin TD Eoin O’Broin said the party will support the Bill of socialist TD, Gino Kenny, moving to the next stage in the Dáil when it comes up for debate.

“Our view is that we think we should allow the Bill to pass through second stage so that you can have that full and frank proper discussion in the committee before we decide how to proceed.”

He said it is a significant issue which merits a national debate.

“There are different views inside our party on it, but not having a debate, I don’t think, is not a solution for anybody.”
Palliative care doctors and geriatricians who have spoken to date are against assisted suicide on the grounds that it targets vulnerable people.
Labour Party leader Alan Kelly says he supports the Bill.

The Government has been urged to allow its TDs a free vote on the legislation. The legislation has gone into the Dáil lottery system where private members Bills are chosen on a random basis for debate in the House.

It is therefore not yet known when it will be debated.


Minister Harris launches Active Consent Toolkit for sexual consent education

An ‘Active Consent Toolkit’, developed at NUIG, was launched today by the Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris.

The toolkit will be rolled out at colleges and universities around the country to improve students understanding of sexual violence, harassment, and consent.

It also address consent education on campus, and provides practical resources and research for colleges to create their own plan to address the issue.

The Toolkit has been developed based on the finding of the ‘Sexual Experiences Survey’ released in June 2020.

Minister Harris said that the results of this survey show that there is much work to be done about educating people on consent.

“We have to do more to raise awareness and support students, and the Active Consent Toolkit will greatly assist institutions in a really practical way.


Archbishop Diarmuid Martin warns against First Communions and Confirmations

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin has called the new covid-restrictions for the city “appropriate” and has warned parishes against attempting to hold first communion or confirmation ceremonies. Dublin is currently the only place in Europe where a Government has forbidden public worship.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said churches would remain closed “except for private prayer, weddings and funerals”. Attendances at these would be limited to 25 with religious services going online only.

In a statement on Saturday, the archbishop said he was seriously concerned that many people “may be underestimating the seriousness of the current situation in Co Dublin”.

While there was no evidence of the virus being spread in worshipping communities, the measures in Dublin were appropriate at this time, he said.

He also noted that some parents and grandparents were unhappy with the cancellation of First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies because of the restrictions. However, he warned against “parishes taking initiatives to ‘get First Communions and Confirmations done’.

“We have to remember that First Communions and Confirmations are sacramental acts and must be celebrated in an appropriate liturgical context and catechetical preparation. The idea that sacramental acts have to be done quickly and can be done outside the normal liturgical situation is false. There is no urgent need to celebrate these sacraments just because they fit into the school calendar.”


Dublin archdiocese prepares for new restrictions

The archdiocese of Dublin has released a preliminary statement in anticipation of a new set of restrictions in the capital city. Dublin will be the only capital city in Europe not permitting public worship currently.

The statement says it now seems most likely that the entire County Dublin will be placed on Level 3 of the Governments COVID-19 Resilience and National Recovery Plan, beginning at midnight tonight for a three-week period.

“It is likely therefore that places of worship will remain closed from midnight tonight, except for private prayer, weddings and funerals.  Attendance at wedding liturgies and funerals would be limited to 25. Religious services can be transited online with no public presence”.

It adds that effectively this places Churches in the position they were before the reopening earlier this summer, or as the situation was in counties Kildare and Laois early this month.

“Confirmation and First Communion services will therefore not be possible during this period and will have to be postponed. Permission already granted for Confirmations remain valid for the new date”.


Patient releases audio of hospital staff offering assisted suicide

A Canadian man suffering from an incurable neurological disease has released audio recordings that he says are proof that hospital staff offered him assisted suicide, despite his repeated requests to live at home.

In one audio recording from September 2017, Roger Foley, 42, is heard speaking to a man about what he has described as attempts at a “forced discharge,” with threats of a hefty hospital bill.

The man is heard saying that the hospital does not use “this conversation in every situation.”

“It is only in situations where somebody has a plan in the community that is feasible that they’re not going to accept and that’s OK,” the man says.

Foley then says that he hasn’t been informed of a plan for his care and that his rights as a patient are being violated.

“Roger, this is not my show,” the man replies. “I told you my piece of this was to talk to you about if you had interest in assisted dying.”

In a separate audio recording from January 2018, another man is heard asking Foley how he’s doing and whether he feels like he wants to harm himself.

Foley tells the man that he’s “always thinking I want to end my life” because of the way he’s being treated at the hospital and because his requests for self-directed care have been denied.

The man is then heard telling Foley that he can “just apply to get an assisted, if you want to end your life, like you know what I mean?”


Right to worship ‘unjustly repressed’ by government, says San Francisco archbishop

Severe restrictions on indoor worship services because of COVID-19 protocols has meant the most basic religious freedom, the right to worship, was being “unjustly repressed”, according to the Catholic archbishop of San Francisco.

Writing in The Washington Post, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said that for months now, the city of San Francisco has limited worship services to just 12 people outdoors, while worship inside churches is banned.

The city recently announced it will allow 50 for outdoor worship, with a goal of permitting indoor services up to a maximum of 25 people by October 1st, less than 1 per cent of the capacity of the city’s Catholic Cathedral.

“This is not nearly enough to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of Catholics in San Francisco,” he added.

The archbishop’s op-ed came a few days after he called on parishes to hold eucharistic processions to the main square in front of the City Hall “to witness to the city that faith matters.”

After reaching the plaza, the entire group will process together to the Cathedral of St Mary of the Assumption for the celebration of multiple outdoor Masses. Participants will be wearing masks and following “proper social distancing,” he added.

He also asked priests to encourage all of their parishioners to go to the website and sign a petition calling on San Francisco mayor London Breed to lift her “unfair restrictions” (over 3,500 people signed it the first week it was posted); and to display prominently at their churches a banner with the motto “We Are Essential: Free the Mass!”


Aontú to oppose assisted suicide bill

An assisted suicide bill has been described as a massive change to law and culture that would impose upon doctors the task of killing adult life for the first time ever.

Aontú Leader Peadar Tóibín has called for an honest, open and fair debate on the so-called “Death with Dignity Bill” of Socialist TD, Gino Kenny, that was introduced in the Dáil on Tuesday.

The Meath West TD said the bill would make it legal for one person to kill another. “Once this Rubicon has been crossed as in other countries, they have found it impossible to limit the further broadening of criteria for the ending of life”.

He said countries such as Canada, Netherlands and Belgium initially introduced assisted suicide for a small number of really difficult cases but have now seen the numbers increase nine and 10-fold. Likewise, while this Bill sets 18 years as the minimum age to avail of Assisted Suicide, “In countries that have made the major cultural change the age limit has been dropped to include children. Belgium did this and children as young as 9 and 11-year-old have been killed”.

He added that in countries that have introduced Assisted Suicide pressure starts to grow on older people and people with severe disabilities.

It likewise makes it harder to reduce suicide rates. “How can a country tell people that suicide is never the right decision when it makes it legal and says to some people that it is the right decision”.


Finance Dept call for consideration of extending tax breaks marriage to cohabitees

The taxation benefits of married couples might be extended to cohabiting partners according to the latest report of the Department of Finance’s Tax Strategy Group.

The September 2020 document notes that married couples enjoy the same rate bands as two single persons. They also retained the ability to transfer some tax credits, something that is not available to non-married couples as the Constitutional protection of Article 41.3.1° does not extend to non-married couples.

“Due to changes in societal norms in Ireland, for example, non-traditional family structures becoming more common and a slightly decreasing trend in marriage rates,” the authors write, “it is worth considering the issues around extending the tax treatment currently only available to married couples to co-habiting couples”.

“In the event that the tax treatment of married couples was to be extended to cohabiting couples, consideration would need to be given to the practicalities that would arise for Revenue if they were to administer such a system.”

“Married couples and civil partners have an independent, verifiable and legally binding confirmation of their marital status, including the dates of commencement and cessation of same. In order to administer a credit for cohabiting couples, Revenue would require a similar standard of verification of their status”.


Australian study: preschool and childcare have little impact on a child’s later academic performance

An Australian study has found no statistically significant difference between the literacy and numeracy scores of school children who had attended preschool or childcare and children who had not.

The research also found the duration of preschool or childcare attendance had no impact on later literacy and numeracy scores.

Published in the journal Behavior Genetics, the study looked into whether attending preschool or childcare influences later academic achievement.

The authors used data from the Academic Development Study of Australian Twins, which has been following children since 2012 to investigate how genes and environments influence their literacy and numeracy abilities in primary and secondary school.


Vatican set to renew deal with Communist China

The Vatican expects to renew its interim deal with China on the appointment of bishops, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said Monday.

“With China, our current interest is to normalise the life of the Church as much as possible, to ensure that the Church can live a normal life, which for the Catholic Church is also to have relations with the Holy See and with the Pope,” Parolin said on Monday, according to Italian news agency AgenSIR.

“Our perspective is on this ecclesiastical theme,” Parolin added, noting that this goal should also take place “against a backdrop of peaceful coexistence, the search for peace and overcoming tensions.”

Responding to questions, Parolin also said the Vatican’s intention “is that [the deal] be prolonged, that we continue to adopt it ad experimentum.”

“If there is the same intention on their part too? I think and hope so,” he said, calling the results of the two-year provisional agreement “not particularly exciting.”

The provisional agreement signed by the Vatican and China on Sept. 22, 2018, is due to expire in October.
Critics have said the Church is sacrificing its right to choose bishops independently of the State and also of not speaking out on human rights abuses in China.