- 18 November 2013 : Catholic bishop expresses church opposition to government proposal to hold referendum on same-sex marriage
Various legal rights pertaining to same-sex couples – such as the right to adopt children and the right to marry – have become subject to state action in recent months in Ireland. Following the government’s proposal to hold a referendum on same-sex marriage in 2015, Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin has defended the Catholic Church’s stance on marriage as the crucible for the expression of life-long love between a man and a woman and for the socialisation of the next generation.
For more detail, see on Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
- 26 October 2013 : Church of Ireland organisation calls for legal clarity regarding position of children in same-sex relationships
In recent times, increasing public debate has taken place in Ireland concerning the extension of the right to marry to same-sex couples. A referendum on the issue will likely take place in 2015. Other legal issues relating to same-sex couples have also recently come into the public domain. On 26 October, 2013, a Church of Ireland LGBT advocacy organisation, Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI), called for legal clarity with respect to the children of same-sex couples. This call was made by Judge Catherine McGuinness, patron of CAI, at a Changing Attitude Ireland lecture to mark 20 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in southern Irish society.
- 23 October 2013 : Debate rages about state involvement in denominational education system
The Irish educational system is characterized by a diversity of providers but is dominated by religious institutions. Back in 1967, the state introduced free secondary education but also retained an arrangement allowing for the provision of private, fee-paying schools associated with particular religious groups. One of these groups, the Protestant Church of Ireland, operates a number of such schools, which avail of special state grants. These schools face the criticism of social elitism and are coming under increasing pressure to opt-in to the state’s free school scheme, thereby foregoing the long-established state “block grant” to support the education of children from a mainly Protestant background.
- 24 August 2013 : Religious groups may face local political opposition
Newly emerging religious groups in Ireland – such as Muslims, Pentecostals, and Orthodox Christians – increasingly use industrial warehouses in Dublin as worship spaces. However, one Dublin county council is considering issuing warning notices to religious groups who celebrate their services in industrial estates zoned for other uses under planning regulations.
- 10 July 2013 : National parliament vote on abortion legislation
Public representatives will vote today (Wednesday, 10 July) in the national parliament on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill (2013) in the final vote on the bill before becoming law. This bill legalizes the carrying out of abortions in Irish hospitals. The Coadjutor Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Eamon Martin, appealed to legislators to vote against the bill. The Catholic bishops also wrote directly to public representatives urging them not to vote in favor of the bill. Other religious groups have been less vocal in either opposing or supporting the bill.
More detail can be found here : Raidió Teilifís Éireann.
- May 2013 : Abortion Debate
The Irish government published draft legislation to legalise abortion in Ireland, The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013. This proposed legislation gives effect to an Irish Supreme Court ruling in 1992 – in the ‘X’ case – allowing abortion in circumstances involving a threat to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother. In addition, the legislation permits abortion in circumstances in which the mother’s life is at risk as a result of suicidal ideation.
Newspaper coverage is available in The Irish Times.
Following the publication of the government’s proposed legislation, the Irish Catholic bishops issued a public statement criticizing the bill, claiming it was “morally unacceptable”.
Other religious groups – such as the Church of Ireland – favor abortion in circumstances in which there is a risk to the life of the mother.
For more detail see Church News Ireland.
- April 2013 : Civil Marriage and Same-Sex Couples
As part of the government’s commitment to constitutional amendment in light of wider social and political change, it established a Constitutional Convention in 2012 to consider and make recommendations in relation to various topics such as same-sex marriage, voting rights, electoral reform, and the role of women in politics (see The Convention on the Constitution)
The membership of the Constitutional Convention is made up of 100 people reflecting different sectors of Irish society. It’s purpose to make recommendations to government regarding changes in the constitution. It operates by inviting oral and written submissions from individuals and groups in relation to the various issues addressed in its work.
One of these topics relates to the contentious issue of same-sex marriage. The Constitutional Convention received a number of submissions from various individual citizens, religious groups, and non-religious organisations in relation to this issue. Two submissions reflecting opposing positions on extending the right to marriage to same-sex couples are those of the Church of Ireland organisation Changing Attitude Ireland (see The Convention on the Constitution) and the Council for Marriage and the Family of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference (see The Convention on the Constitution).
In April 2013, 79% of members of the Constitutional Convention voted in favour of extending civil marriage to same-sex couples.
- February 2013
A report into the Irish state’s involvement in the operation of Magdalene laundries was published. Magdalene laundries were large-scale institutions run by Catholic religious orders in which “fallen women” (or women who were viewed as having the potential to “fall”) – women who had children outside marriage or women who were unwanted by their families– engaged in laundry cleaning for long periods of their lives. The major finding of the report was that the state was heavily involved in these institutions, through its inspection system, cleaning contracts, and the pathways by which women entered and left the laundries. In February 2013 the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) offered an official apology to the over 10,000 women who spent part of their lives in the laundries and announced a non-adversarial compensation scheme.
You can read the full text of the report on Department of Justice and Equality.
- 18 January 2013
A new coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, Monsignor Eamon Martin, was appointed by the Pope in January 2013 to succeed Cardinal Seán Brady.
For more information see on Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
- January 2013 : Abortion Debate
The “abortion debate” has moved centre stage in the public consciousness in Ireland in recent months. This arose from the tragic death of a pregnant mother Savita Halappanavar arising from her medical treatment in a Galway hospital. Ms. Halappanavar sought the termination of her pregnancy but this was disallowed by her medical doctors. The termination of pregnancy is prohibited under current Irish law.
Following this case, the Irish government announced its intention to legislate for abortion in circumstances involving a threat to the life as the distinct from the health of the mother.
The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference urged the government not to introduce abortion legislation and instead advocated for the use of clearer medical guidelines to clarify medical practice in circumstances where the mother’s life is in danger.
As part of the process of legislating for abortion the Oireachtas (parliamentary) Committee on Health and Children held a number of public abortion hearings, some of which were dedicated to various religious groups to make their case in favor or against abortion. Some religious groups – such as the Church of Ireland and secular groups –such as Atheist Ireland – supported the government’s position while others – such as the Catholic Church – strongly opposed it.