News Roundup

Br Kevin receives Oireachtas award, lambasts Government

In a prime example of freedom of religion, Brother Kevin Crowley of the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin lambasted the Government’s response to the housing crisis while receiving an award in Leinster House for his own work helping the homeless and destitute of the city.

Speaking in the members’ restaurant after becoming the fourth recipient of the Oireachtas Human Dignity Award, Br Kevin said “It’s absolutely appalling to think in 2018 that the Government cannot face up to the fact that we have a crisis in our country. We have a crisis in our cities for the homeless people. We have a crisis for the children. We have a crisis for their families. These people should not be walking the streets .”

He questioned the State’s strategy in addressing the crisis. “Where are we? Where are our politicians? Where is the money going to? Recently, there was a hotel got, I think, €9 million for homeless people. How many houses could we have built for that? It is a crying shame.”

The award was given by the Oireachtas Human Dignity Group, whose founding member, Senator Rónán Mullen (Ind), said Br Crowley had “earned the respect of the Irish people”.


Bishops ‘dismayed’ that prolife voices completely ignored

Ireland’s Catholic bishops have said they are “dismayed” that the voices of those who voted against repealing the eighth amendment have been ignored since last May’s referendum.

In a statement following their winter general meeting, the bishops said that amendments to the Abortion Bill that many would have deemed to be “very reasonable” had been rejected.

“We are dismayed that, for the most part, the voices of those who voted against abortion in May’s referendum have been ignored,” the bishops said.

“As we stated after our Autumn Meeting, Irish society must have respect for the right of conscientious objection for all healthcare professionals and pharmacists. They cannot be forced either to participate in abortion or to refer patients to others for abortion.”

The bishops said “every one of us has a right to life. It is not given to us by the Constitution of Ireland or by any law… The direct and intentional taking of human life at any stage is gravely wrong and can never be justified.”

The continued: “Women’s lives, and the lives of their unborn children, are precious, valued and always deserving of protection. Any law which suggests otherwise would have no moral force. In good conscience it cannot be supported and would have to be resisted.”


Dáil approves Harris’ abortion Bill

Legislation to provide for an extensive abortion regime for the first time in Ireland was passed by the Dáil following an extended debate.

The so-called Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill was approved by 90 votes to 15 with 12 abstentions. The Bill will now go before the Seanad as the Government rushes to have it enacted in time for its planned introduction date in January.

A total of 65 amendments were tabled but only changes brought by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, were passed. Fianna Fail refused to back any pro-life amendments.


Simon Harris: ‘I am not giving any hospital to the nuns’

The Minister for Health has vowed that the New Maternity Hospital should not be subject to a Catholic ethos in any way. In intemperate remarks, Simon Harris told the Dáil  “I am not giving any hospital to the nuns”.
The Sisters of Charity are providing the land for the hospital.

Both Leo Varadkar and Simon Harris faced questions on what was described by People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith as a “cold war” between the Department of Health and the boards of the National Maternity Hospital and the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group over the planned hospital’s ethos and ownership. The plan to relocate the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street in Dublin to the grounds of St Vincent’s hospital has been in the offing for the past 18 months but negotiations are still ongoing with the Minister for Health recently insisting that the board of directors should have an extra director to represent the public interest.

Mr Harris rejected claims by an anonymous hospital source that he was “meddling” in the issue and said the publicr should be concerned that the hospital has “robust governance” and that the State should have a seat at the table when the board was making decisions.

The Minister said the charitable status of St Vincent’s hospital also had to be sorted since “the nuns have said they are leaving” as well as public ownership.


MEPs express concern about Bulgarian bill to restrict religious groups

Members of the European Parliament have expressed concern about proposed legislation in Bulgaria to control the operation of religious groups. On November 27, the MEPs said the proposed law “has the potential to significantly interfere with religious freedom in Bulgaria”.

The bill in question would significantly restrain the rights of minority faith groups, hampering theological schools, clergy training, missionary activity, free worship outside of designated buildings, and international funding of local ministries. A subsequent change to the bill raised the minimum membership requirement for registration of religious groups from 300 to 3,000 with the threat that denominations with fewer members could be shut down altogether.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has also raised its voice against the proposed law.

“Nobody should be persecuted or experience harassment because of their faith”, said Viktor Kostov, a Sofia based allied lawyer of ADF International. “We have repeatedly requested that the MPs behind the bill amend or remove the worst aspects of the law without success. The proposed law represents a fundamental attack on freedom of religion in our country”. Lorcán Price, Legal Counsel for ADF International, added: “Nobody should be deprived of their fundamental right to religious freedom. As the European Court of Human Rights has ruled in the past, the government should not engage in ‘picking favourites’ when it comes to churches”.

Referendum to make getting a divorce easier planned for next May

A referendum to reduce the waiting period for divorce is to be held next year on the same day as the local and European elections on May 24th, the Government has decided.

At present, the Constitution only permits divorce where the spouses have lived apart for four of the previous five years. Now the Government proposes to either reduce the four year requirement to two or take it out of the constitution altogether.

A Government spokesman said on Tuesday that the question of which option would be decided over the coming weeks. It is intended to begin discussions with the other political parties and independents immediately.


Judge rejects claim that informal atheist marriage had any legal effect

A judge has described a Co Clare woman’s atheist marriage as “mumbo jumbo” and “for the fairies” stating that she didn’t get married at all four years ago because it did not fulfill the legal requirements.

He was responding to a woman accused of giving a Garda a false name. The woman said she used her new husband’s surname after they married at a humanist ceremony four years ago.

However, Judge Durcan said: “The law provides procedures for entering into marriage which is something that imposes civil responsibility and imposes civil obligations. That is what marriage is and your client wasn’t married four years ago.” He added: “Let us go by legal principles here – her maiden name is Haskett, her first husband was McLeish – her only husband.”

The solicitor representing the woman said her client had instructed her that she was married in an atheist or ‘humanist’ ceremony four years ago. Judge Durcan, however, told the solicitor that the defendant “instructs you to come in here with this cock and bull story about being married, that is daft and for the fairies”.

He added: “Your client has been living in an unreal world.”


Dutch man loses case to be recognised as the age he identifies with

A Dutch court has rejected an attempt by a 69 year old man to reduce his age by 20 years to align with the age he feels he is rather than his birth-age. The man wanted to make the change to enhance his prospects in life and love. In an unprecedented case, the Arnhem District Court told “positivity guru” Emile Ratelband it will not adhere to his request to shift his birth date two decades later to 11 March 1969.

“Mr Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly,” the judges said.

“But amending his date of birth would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships,” adding that “this would have a variety of undesirable legal and societal implications”.


Harris orders HSE to ensure abortion availability from January 1st

The Department of Health has ordered the Health Service Executive to ensure abortion will be available in all 19 maternity units from January 1st. The move comes amid rising uncertainty over whether the Government will meet its deadline for the introduction of abortion. Independent TD Peadar Toibin said recently that several maternity units around the country are resisting performing abortions.

The Department has also asked the 19 units to provide updates on how they plan to provide for abortion from the New Year onwards. Doctors in a number of hospitals have already expressed their opposition to the Government’s abortion plans due to conscience-objections and fears of a lack of resources.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) will provide a week of educational sessions on ‘ethical issues’ in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick. They have been invited by the Irish College of General Practitioners and the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists with funding from the HSE. Sessions are due to start on December 10th and will be made available to all staff who will be providing abortion from January 1st, across community and hospital settings.


Medical Council Ethics Guidelines on abortion will ‘not be ready in time’

Revised ethical guidelines for doctors executing abortions will not be ready in time for the launch of Simon Harris’ abortion regime in January.

President of the Medical Council, Dr Rita Doyle, told a closed meeting of GPs believes it is better to get the guidelines right rather than to rush them in time for the Government’s deadline for the introduction of abortion on January 1st. This means existing guidelines, including the provisions on conscientious objection, will apply to the service until they are updated.

Nonetheless, the consultant appointed by the Government to oversee the introduction of the service has said abortion will be available “in some form” in all of the State’s 19 maternity units from January. However, Dr Peter Boylan warned that “inevitably, there will be problems and nobody should expect perfection” at the start.

Meanwhile, the State has granted the first ever approval for the use of an abortion drug. The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) confirmed to the Irish Examiner last night that it has “received and approved Mifepristone for termination of pregnancy”. The tablet was authorised on November 30. The Nordic Group BV, with an address in the Netherlands, is listed by the HPRA as the marketing authorisation holder.