News Roundup

Russia slams European court’s ‘meddling’ over same-sex civil partnerships 

Russia has deemed a call by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as foreign “meddling” in the country’s domestic affairs.

The court had ruled that Russia should respect and acknowledge same-sex couples by providing a legal framework for their relationships.

The ruling “contradicts the foundations of Russian rule of law and morality,” Vasily Piskarev, a lawmaker who heads a parliamentary commission dedicated to investigating foreign interference.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had also said that the court’s request would contradict Russia’s constitution.

Last year, Russia adopted a set of constitutional amendments that emphasized the primacy of Russian law over international norms. It also stipulated that “institution of marriage is a union between a man and a woman.”


European Court of Justice rules visible personal religious symbols can be banned at work

The European Court of Justice, the EU’s highest court, ruled last week that employers can forbid their staff from wearing visible symbols of religious or political belief, including headscarves, in order to present an image of neutrality.

The Court decided on the matter following referrals from the Labour Court of Hamburg and the Federal Labour Court of Germany, which had requested the Court consider whether the dismissal of two Muslim women from their employment over their non-compliance with orders to refrain from wearing their hijab was compliant with EU law on equal treatment in employment and occupation.

The Court held that certain prohibitions could be justified under specific circumstances. Specifically, the Court held that: “indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief resulting from an internal rule of an undertaking prohibiting, at the workplace, the wearing of visible signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs with the aim of ensuring a policy of neutrality within that undertaking can be justified only if that prohibition covers all visible forms of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs”.


Assisted suicide topic could go to Citizens’ Assembly says TD

An Oireachtas committee will likely put a hold on a Private Members’ bill that would have made assisted suicide legal in Ireland, according to the author of the bill. However, he says the topic could now go before either a special Oireachtas committee or a Citizens’ Assembly meaning it is still very much on the cards.

People Before Profit TD for Dublin Mid-West, Gino Kenny, said in a tweet that it’s becoming evident that the Justice Committee will not be recommending the progress of the Dying with Dignity bill.

The far-left TD added: “This is a complete prevarication of the issue and the bill. There was no policy scrutiny just a legal opinion which could have been overcome. A shambolic process”.

His bill would permit anyone likely to die from an illness to avail of assisted suicide no matter how far from death they actually are.

Serious legal concerns had been raised about the bill by the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers.

A confidential memo to the Justice Committee raised a range of issues including that parts of the Bill would be vulnerable to a constitutional challenge due to an “overdelegation of ministerial power”.

It identified “ambiguities and serious drafting errors” in several sections of the Bill, containing flaws that could render them vulnerable to challenge before the courts.

It also found that it had no enforceable compliance or offence provisions, “which is hugely problematic for this legislation given the statements from both the Irish Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights on the utmost importance of safeguards in legislation such as this”.


Death threat received by Nigerian pastor following new wave of attacks

A pastor who assists displaced communities in southern Kaduna, Nigeria, has received a death threat on the same night local communities were attacked by armed assailants thought to be Fulani herdsmen.

Pastor Gideon Agwom Mutum received a threatening letter on Monday, accusing him of insulting the Fulani tribe in the media. The author claimed they would kill him and his family “like goats”.

“We know your house, your church and even your family.

“Your movement is known by us. Tell your people to get ready for us. We will come unless you go back and tell the world you are sorry for all that you have said concerning the Fulanis. We are coming. Nigeria is our land. Southern Kaduna is our land,” the letter warned.

The Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), of which Pastor Mutum is a member says the recent attacks have left 33 people dead, 215 homes destroyed, and four churches demolished.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide is calling on the Nigerian Government to “address the threat posed by this militia swiftly and decisively, prioritising the protection of vulnerable individuals and communities, and bringing attackers to justice”.


Half of pregnant teenagers in Scotland opt for abortion

Half of teenage mothers in Scotland opted to abort their babies in 2019, Public Health Scotland (PHS) figures have revealed.

Of the 3,814 women under 20 who became pregnant, 50.3 per cent had an abortion.

The PHS report noted how the proportion of teens opting to abort had “increased gradually over time and is now the more common of the two outcomes”.

Responding to the report, The Christian Institute’s Scotland Officer Nigel Kenny said the statistics were “nothing short of a tragedy”.

Earlier this year, PHS announced that there were 13,815 abortions in Scotland last year – the highest in the country since records began in 1968.


Health Minister attacks Senator Mullen over same-sex marriage

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he will not take lectures in solidarity in the context of Covid-19 from Senator Ronan Mullen because he had “campaigned against gay marriage”. Almost 40pc of the electorate voted against redefining marriage in 2015.

The Minister was speaking during a debate on the Health Amendment Bill, which restricts access to indoor dining to those who have been fully vaccinated, or recovered from Covid-19, plus staff and children under 18.

Independent NUI Senator, Ronan Mullen said there is a fundamental injustice underpinning the Bill. “The notion of intergenerational solidarity, so extensively promoted by the Government when it suits, has been abandoned. A commitment made and restated by the Tánaiste as recently as four weeks ago that there would be no discrimination between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated has been cynically abandoned. All it took was a wave of the magic wand by NPHET for a set of apocalyptic projections to be accepted by the Cabinet virtually without question”, he added.

In the Minister’s summation at the end of the debate he said: “The only Senator who I will refer to directly is Senator Mullen. I will not take any lectures from Senator Mullen, who campaigned against gay marriage. He can keep his lectures on solidarity to himself”.

In a response on twitter, Senator Mullen said he “didn’t preside over a ‘health’ régime that caused the death of a little child in Holles Street, and fail to investigate and fail to apologise. I think my record on solidarity bears comparison with that of @DonnellyStephen”.


Making cohabitation like marriage encourages women to quit work, study finds

A new Canadian study has found the economic “specialization” often seen within marriage—where one partner, typically the man, works more while the other partner does more at home—becomes more likely to happen to cohabitees as well, as living together becomes legally more similar to marriage. In Ireland, cohabiting couples gain marriage-like rights after five years, or three if they have children.

After one year, cohabitation is considered a legal status under Canadian law and is reported on tax returns. Cohabiters are eligible for their partners’ car insurance and pension plans. And between 1972 and 1999, every province except Quebec enacted laws allowing some cohabiters to claim alimony after a break-up. Three provinces have taken a further step, considering cohabiting relationships to be equal to marriages after a certain period of time, including when it comes to dividing up property after a breakup.

The research from Marion Goussé and Marion Leturcq found cohabiting men worked 271 more hours per year when the “alimony regime” went into effect, while cohabiting women became 7.7 percentage points more likely to be unemployed or inactive. When the “marriage regime” replaced the alimony regime, women became another 4.4 points more likely to be inactive or unemployed.


Legal challenge underway against Northern Ireland’s abortion law

The Dungiven mother granted permission by the High Court in Belfast to intervene in a challenge to the new abortion law in Northern Ireland has said she’s appalled at the way she and her daughter have been treated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Northern Secretary Brandon Lewis, and the way they have gone about imposing abortion on the people of Northern Ireland.

Rosaleen McElhinney, whose daughter Cara Rose has Down Syndrome voiced her upset and concern in The Irish News newspaper, where she talked about the discriminatory abortion law in Northern Ireland that permits abortion up to birth when an unborn baby is detected with Down Syndrome or any other disability.

Ms McElhinney said: “It is bad enough to take action to allow others to engage in discriminatory and eugenic practices. It is something else for the British government to actually intervene on a devolved matter to take to themselves the right to commission discriminatory and eugenic practices because, very properly, the Northern Ireland health minister has refused to commission abortions on this basis.


Thousands of patients transferred to nursing homes during Pandemic

There was a surge in the number of patients transferred from hospitals to nursing homes in March and April last year, Minister for State Hildegarde Naughton has confirmed in the Dáil. Care home patients account for nearly half of all Covid-related deaths in Ireland. Many were transferred without a Covid test and may have spread the disease in the homes.

She was responding to a statement on the matter from Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD who revealed the contents of documents released to him after a freedom of information request.

Among them was an email from the National Treatment Purchase Fund which was issued to nursing homes on the 12th March 2020. It says: “the NPTF have been asked to establish capacity within the nursing home sector”, and, “nursing homes will need to have the ability to care for patients coming from the acute hospital setting” and “facilities must be able to facilitate short term residents being discharged from the acute hospital”.

Deputy Toibin described it as a “damning document” and a “smoking gun”.


China harvesting DNA from millions of pregnant women worldwide

Reuters news agency has uncovered that a Chinese company connected to the military has been harvesting DNA from millions of unsuspecting pregnant women worldwide.

The report claims that the BGI Group has been harvesting “genetic data from millions of women for sweeping research” and claims China has been using the data to gain strategic economic advantages and to improve “population quality”.

The report also claims Chinese scientists used data harvested by BGI Group to trace genetic distinctions between Han Chinese (overwhelmingly the majority ethnic group in China) and ethnic minorities, like the Uyghurs and Tibetans. The report suggests that Chinese scientists have sought to map how genetic variations in Uyghurs affected their reaction to different kinds of drugs. An estimated million Muslim Uighurs are currently being held in concentrations camps in China.

Commenting on the news, a spokesperson for the Pro-Life Campaign said the willful refusal of the ruling political class in Ireland to challenge the Chinese government over its litany of human rights violations “adds to the wrongs and persecutions taking place and emboldens those carrying them out”.