‘Micheál Martin is obsessed with electoral success in Dublin, but he believes that the way to gain it is by “modernising” the party. He has surrounded himself with people who think the same way, and is doing the equivalent of sticking his fingers in his ears and going “nah-nah-nah-nah” to anyone inside or outside the party who says anything different.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

‘There is no party that now represents those who are socially conservative but not economically right wing’

‘Pregnant models stalked down the catwalk, and instead of carrying dinky little handbags, some of the models toted beautiful babies.’  Photograph: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Elton John and Martina Navratilova criticise ‘parenting’ views of designers

‘The Government operates a system of direct provision for asylum-seekers, so that each adult gets €19.10 a week, along with accommodation and food. People languish for years in a system originally intended to be a temporary measure for six months or so.’ Above, a group of  asylum seekers, refugees and supporters which marched from the Dáil to the Department of Justice last year protesting about the system of direct provision. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

‘Kathy feels as if the State has cut her adrift after almost forcibly institutionalising her. She doesn’t want to be dependent . .(...)

‘They are the ones most affected by cutbacks in resources, or services such as guidance counselling. Yet the Government continues to deny the effects of such cutbacks.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Should education be about creating a compliant workforce or good citizens?

‘Not one major political party has the courage to represent the absolutely unexceptional view that being a biological parent is more than being a blood donor. Or that it is possible to have an inclusive and tolerant society which also respects the fact that it takes a man and woman to make a child, and that marriage should reflect that reality.’ Photograph: Getty Images

‘The Government has declared that it makes no difference whether your biological parents raise you, or whether two men or two w(...)

‘The majority of people who use IVF in Ireland do not use donor eggs or sperm, but this Bill normalises and reinforces the idea that it is fine to do so, so long as you give the child some meagre information when they turn 18.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Apparently it is fine for children to be denied their genetic heritage and kinship networks through “modern means of family forma(...)

‘The news that the child you are carrying may not make it to birth, or will only live for a short time, perhaps only hours, days, weeks, months, or in rare cases, years, splinters parents’ hearts.’  Photograph: Getty Images

Parents need expert support when they hear their baby faces a life-limiting condition

 ‘The convent in Muckross Park, Donnybrook, is full of exceptional women, but none of them would begrudge praise given to Sr Barnabas Kett (Barnie), as they grieve for her just as much as her beloved family of origin do.’ Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

‘Like all the Dominican sisters who taught, Sr Barnabas Kett believed education was the key to a good life, one where you could (...)

‘In Ireland, we have a sad tendency to conform when it comes to political ideas, whether it be the rigid consensus of the 1950s, or the apparently ideologically opposite, but in fact, eerily similar 2015 version.’  Photograph: Getty Images

Twitterverse is a bubble, removed from most people’s experience

‘Lots of people won’t get to be raised by loving biological parents because of neglect, abandonment, or tragic circumstances. Children can turn out really well despite all sorts of challenges. But usually, we recognise that not being raised by your Mam or Dad constitutes a loss.’ Photograph: Getty Images

‘The inconvenient truth is that we are altering Article 41 of the Constitution which has a simple heading – the Family’

Through volunteer photographers at Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, baby Liadan’s parents find comfort.  Photographer: EIleen Hyland

We don’t deal well with the death of babies with life-limiting illnesses

‘Ironically, moderate Muslims are likely to suffer most in the fallout from the Paris murders, and were also most likely to suffer in the aftermath of the publication of provocative cartoons or commentary.’  Above, Hassen Chalghoumi (left), Imam of the Drancy mosque in Paris, leaves flowers and prays near the Charlie Hebdo offices on Thursday. Photograph: Marc Piasecki/Getty Images

‘What is best in religion must now be mustered to defeat peacefully those who represent the worst of religious extremism’

‘My mother is 15 years dead this year, and I found myself thinking about the Christmas pudding that she used to steam in a gallon tin.’ Photograph: Getty Images

I still have no idea what ‘a bun baked standing’ meant

‘The capacity for wrongdoing lies within each of us. Simple things like working in a residential unit where there is a strong culture of care, versus working in one where the opposite is true, can cause us to act in ways that those closest to us would find surprising or even appalling.’ Photograph: Getty Images

What makes some people treat others badly – or well?

‘For three decades Australians on low incomes have been able to access no-interest and low-interest loans through Good Shepherd Microfinance.’  Photograph: Getty Images

‘Somehow, we think that it is acceptable and inevitable that those who are most likely need to borrow relatively small sums just t(...)

A candlelight vigil outside the Dáil in response to the death on Molesworth Street, Dublin  of Jonathan Corrie, who was homeless. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

‘A shy, gentle, wild creature in mortal terror of the people who were clumsily trying to help. He left, and we never saw him again(...)

‘Students understand that the key question is whether teachers should be the final judges of 40 per cent of the work they will do for State certification. And just like their teachers, they think that is a really bad idea.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Government should keep external assessment and develop an education system driven by educational needs, not cost-cutting

Peter Mathews: new Bill. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / THE IRISH TIMES

Opinion: Are large numbers of Irish citizens having a Howard Beale moment, prompted by the Irish Water debacle?

‘If a wife discovers that her husband is buying the “services” of a woman working in prostitution, the sense of betrayal is immense. Why is that?’ Photograph: Getty Images

Opinion: ‘Why is it that if someone buys a vote from a councillor, it is seen as corruption, but if someone buys the use of someon(...)

 ‘Brittany Maynard, found meaning in actively promoting the “right to die”.’ Photograph: Maynard Family, File

Opinion: More and more patients request euthanasia because they are fearful of being a burden, as the ‘right to die’ becomes the ‘(...)

 ‘The Sophia housing project is an excellent intensive residential intervention, but sometimes, much more low-key and local initiatives can prevent people ever reaching an extreme stage such as homelessness or facing a care order.’ above, children playing at the Sophia housing project. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Opinion: Local women are trained to help young mothers before other services might be needed

‘I believe Gerry Adams  when he says that he prioritised the peace process so that no young person would have to kill or maim in the name of freedom. However, it is still utterly chilling that he seems to believe that violence was perfectly understandable in the absence of such a process.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Opinion: ‘While many look at Gerry Adams and think of the thousands who died in an unwinnable battle, his acolytes see the man who(...)

‘Pope Francis called for discussion on family life, and we are getting discussion, but we have not been used to grown-up discussion in the Catholic Church. Instead, we have been excellent at mutual excommunication, and caricature.’ above, Pope Francis waves to members of the media as he leaves a morning session of  the synod on family issues, at the Vatican. Photograph: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Opinion: Priest helped unmarried parents to gradually build foundation for family

‘The report points out astonishing anomalies in the way that children’s cases are treated. Take the issue of care orders, where children are taken into the care of the State, usually into foster care, for their own safety.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Opinion: ‘Early intervention and support could prevent a great deal of grief later on’

  ‘Pope Francis’s decision to go to Lampedusa early in his ministry reflected that concern, and few institutions understand better the push/pull factors that underpin forced migration, particularly in the developing world.’ Above, Pope Francis  recently  met  some migrants who survived the boat sinking on  October 3rd, 2013 off the island of Lampedusa.  Photograph: L’Osservatore Romano

Opinion: Complex pastoral challenges raised by cultural norms and demographic shifts

‘It is probably wise that the revised scheme of Bill issued this week declines to deal with surrogacy, given that there is a current Supreme Court case.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Opinion: Unmarried fathers are still not automatically entitled to guardianship rights

A woman touches an icon of the Virgin Mary during a pilgrimage to    Lourdes .... “inside the Domain, there is a intensely spiritual atmosphere, even when you are not taking part in a procession”. , southwestern France, on August 24,   (Photo: Remy Gabalda/AFP/Getty Images)

‘People rarely talk about how so many charities would fall apart without the fundraising done by students ’

Monica O’Connor  being taken by gardaí from her home  to prison. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan

Opinion: Would better communication and a change of culture have helped both the Kings and Monica O’Connor?

‘In the early 2000s, senior social care managers and police continued to believe that the scale of the problem was exaggerated.’ Above, a protest outside Rotherham police station following the publication of the child exploitation  report. Photograph:  Lynne Cameron/PA

Opinion: It is naive to believe the Irish Child and Family Agency can overcome all the flaws of the previous regime in a short ti(...)

‘Being stigmatised for being pregnant outside of marriage was a common phenomenon until recent decades in Ireland. We routinely condemn those times.’  Photograph: Getty Images

Opinion: ‘There are two very vulnerable people in this nightmare who have been let down by our selective indignation’

‘The young women’s father spoke eloquently to me about how difficult it is to demand high standards of work and commitment, all the while knowing that under current circumstances, it is impossible for them to go to third level.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Opinion: Their parents are not permitted to work, and neither are they

‘Eddie and Monica’s six children, aged from six to 27, have all been educated at home, although their older children decided to enter formal education in their teens.’ Above, Eddie O’ Neill with some of the children (Eamonn, Elva, Oran  and Emmet). Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES

Opinion: When they refused to pay the fine imposed on them, they were each sentenced to 10 days’ in prison

‘Being a politician at national level, if you are not from Dublin or nearby, means a lot of time spent away from home.’ Photograph: Alan Betson

Opinion: Ireland is among the 10 lowest-ranked EU countries when it comes to political and economic representation of women

 Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair delivers Progress’ inaugural annual Philip Gould Lecture on July 21st in London –   Labour “has to be progressive and base policies on reality, not a delusionary view of the world”, he sid .   Photograph: John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images

New Labour’s legacy is not progressive – it is narcissistic. And has affected our politics too

Opinion: Tumblr presents a virtually parodic version of allegedly liberal values

Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch as Watson and Holmes: sharing a flat but not a bed

Opinion: Reporting the Christian bakery sends the message that it is not okay to disagree

‘Leah Libresco’s unusual qualities may be indicated by the fact that it was livestreamed by iCatholic.ie, but she was also extensively interviewed by Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland.’

Opinion: Personalised abuse indicates if someone says “I hate you!” they may really be in pain, she suggests

‘Rather than discussing how technology could ease the endurance test, we could just have shorter but deeper courses, and have exams where it is normal to pause, gaze at the ceiling and really think, rather than just frantically scribble.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Opinion: Could the keyboard be mightier than the pen when it comes to exams?

‘The point of investigating the past is not just avoiding the mistakes that were made then, because times have changed so utterly that we are very unlikely to bury poor children in unmarked graves.’ Above, the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway. Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

Opinion: If you are small and powerless, even the most basic respect of having a marked grave may be denied you

‘All Hallows was once a seminary. It always had a lovely atmosphere, but once vocations declined, it became a warm, humane college of higher education primarily for lay people.’  Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

Opinion: A significant number of its students came from families where there was no tradition of higher education

‘All Hallows was once a seminary. It always had a lovely atmosphere, but once vocations declined, it became a warm, humane college of higher education primarily for lay people.’  Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

Opinion: A significant number of its students came from families where there was no tradition of higher education

Photograph: Sunday Alamba/AP

Opinion: Simple slogans can’t replace dialogue and hard bargaining

‘These letters provide significant background to an important era in US history.’  An  undated  image  of Jacqueline Kennedy with Fr Joseph Leonard. Photograph courtesy of  Sheppard’s Irish Auction House

Opinion: Such an exchange between an elderly priest and a famous woman is hard to imagine today

‘For decades, people have been warning about the democratic deficit at the heart of the EU.’ Above,  counting European election votes at the RDS Count Centre in 2009. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Many Irish voters are socially conservative, but are not particularly right-wing economically. Where is the party that represents (...)

‘What about justice for children who are short-changed in education, or social services? If they fall foul of the law, will they receive the same understanding?’ Photograph: Getty Images

Opinion: Schools at breaking point over cuts in provision for special educational needs

‘This weekend as two popes are canonised, there will be a number of predictable media narratives. It has been declared that the canonisation of Good Pope John is overdue (true), while the canonisation of Pope John Paul is a disaster, because of his lack of action over sexual abuse, and his innate conservatism.’ Photograph: Michael Kappeler/EPA

Opinion: Media does not reflect complexity of papal story

‘You might argue that it was somewhat tasteless to mock a Catholic sacrament during Holy Week. You might even wince a bit at the satire of “singing priests”, given that the best known singing priests are humble men who raise phenomenal amounts of money for charity.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Opinion: Tiny percentage of religious involved in abuse

‘Ruairí Quinn said the vital skills will be the ability to find, use and re-use knowledge.’  Photograph: Frank Miller

Opinion: Junior Cert history helps students make sense of State visit

In an article on Goop, the website of Gwyneth Paltrow (above), Dr Habib Sadeghi and Dr Sherry Sami explain that in their opinion the concept of lifelong marriage is impossible given that we now live so long. Photograph: Craig Barritt/Getty Images

Opinion: Paltrow and Martin’s public separation is a personal tragedy

Pope Francis: “The cases of abuse are terrible because they leave very profound wounds. Benedict XVI was very courageous and opened the way”. Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

Opinion: Complacency and constant condemnation are key problems

‘No one wishes to leave children stateless or parent-less, people understandably desperate to have a baby will seize on any such loophole.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Opinion: Proposed legislation silent on those who use foreign commercial surrogates

‘Pope Francis  does not want to be admired. This “son of the Church” wants people to look again at the figure who inspires him, and take seriously the challenge of following that lead.’ Pope Francis  Photograph:  Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Opinion: He has washed his socks and knows the face of poverty

Having sex with someone who has passed out is regarded by some as a ‘grey area’

Opinion: Internet has not lived up to its aspirations

Opinion: A certain percentage will always be at risk of serious mental health problems

Opinion: The police tend not to know what to do about this relatively new phenomenon

Opinion: To describe someone as homophobic is to take their good name

Opinion: Schools in North excel despite same time given to RE as in the Republic

Opinion: Junior Cert is currently objective, in that it is marked by people who do not know the pupils

A photograph of Tom O’Gorman, who was found dead at his home in Castleknock, is displayed at a prayer vigil held for him at St Teresa’s, Clarendon St, Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Opinion: The sordid and detailed reports added greatly to the suffering of Tom O’Gorman’s friends

Gay marriage at Boston City Hall: Julie (left) and Hillary Goodridge, with (back to camera) registrar Judith McCarthy. Photograph: AP

Opinion: The church teaches that sexuality is ordered towards a certain goal

Community values of kindness and solidarity still operate even though we sometimes think our society is dysfunctional.

Opinion: Community values often provide a shelter in adversity that the State cannot replicate

Opinion: Everyone seems to love Francis and everyone wants to co-opt him to their own agenda

If people refuse to support the CRC’s work it is children and adults with disabilities who will suffer. Photograph: Dara MacDonaill

Opinion: If charities are to raise money successfully, they need to professionalise

Apple has taken aggressive tax avoidance to new heights by becoming virtually stateless. Photograph: Reuters

Opinion: A global economic system based on maximising profit is obviously flawed

What will it do to the reputation of our education system if there is no independent verification of standards? Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Opinion: Junior Cycle reform requires more thought and better training for teachers

Ronald Reagan: old enough to have known Marilyn Monroe, but was he old enough to have known Thomas Jefferson? Photograph: AP

Opinion: We are becoming more cynical but still have a need for visionary, inspiring figures

Bishop  Seamus Hegarty of Derry leaving  an extraordinary general meeting to discuss the Murphy report in Maynooth in 2010. Photograph: PA

Opinion: ‘Naming and shaming’ of those who dealt with complaints may have violated principles of natural justice, priests’ review (...)

Weighing the evidence: but is a court the best place to decide delicate matters concerning the welfare of children and families?

Opinion: Adversarial system associated with court setting is of questionable value

A child cries as families of Roma origin are forced to leave their homes after a Hungarian far-right militia invaded their village in 2011. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Opinion: If we condemn recent actions but fail to support integration we are being hypocritical

The International Eucharistic Congress in 2012 marked a turning point, when Irish Catholics saw that they were not isolated. Photograph: Alan Betson

Opinion: New emphasis on importance of lay participation the key to revival

Savita Halappanavar: Professor John Bonnar’s view that if she had received proper care her baby could have been delivered by the Tuesday has been vindicated.

Opinion: Hiqa identified general lack of ‘basic, fundamental care’

The Mater: where the sisters stood up to the Black and Tans. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Opinion: People would support the Mercy sisters financially with any legal costs

Enda Kenny: won plaudits from the media for being decisive and ruthless. Photograph: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Opinion: It is a measure of how disillusisoned we are that the Government’s cynicism no longer shocks us

Pope Francis washing the foot of a prisoner at a youth prison in Rome in March –   “with his utterly refreshing candour and openness, and his blunt description of himself as a ‘sinner’, he is allowing people to see Catholicism in a new light.” PHOTOGRAPH:  REUTERS/OSSERVATORE ROMANO

Interview emphasises mercy, not legalism

Forces loyal to Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad carry the national flag as they ride on motorcycles in Qusair. Photograph:  Mohammed Azakir/Reuters

Threat of US strikes may have been averted, but war goes on

Opinion: Labour trying to pose as if it is no more than an interested bystander

An Evangelical church, located about 245km (152 miles) south of Cairo, was recently burnt out. Photograph: Reuters

Opinion: After Egyptian security forces cleared three sit-in camps, the reprisals were concentrated disproportionately on Christia(...)

The Slane concert: there were 750 police present this year, but no matter how well policed or well organised, our societal tolerance for public drunkenness tends to give a free pass to unacceptable behaviour. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Opinion: Sexual intimacy should be reserved for mature, committed relationships

Is the church in danger of becoming just a psychological comfort blanket, the pope asks. Photograph: Reuters

Pontiff emphasised forgiving and forgetting, but in the Google age is anything forgotten?

Senator Ronan Mullen: read transcript from alleged recordings into the record. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Attitudes appear to be hardening to the degree that any abortion must be facilitated

Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton suggested thoughtful amendments but the simple story had already won. Photograph: Eric Luke

We owe the brave few so much more than we can ever repay

With autocratic stubbornness, Enda Kenny has declared that he is right, and everyone shouting stop is wrong. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Analysis: We are now dependent on the courage of individuals to rail against abortion Bill

“There are 2,000 Irish people in hospital beds today due to alcohol use.”

The aim of sponsorship is to ‘piggyback’ on sport’s positive images

Food security is becoming more of a worry. Irish livestock had to be fed this year with French fodder, imported at enormous expense. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Women have been manipulated to fill the emptiness with the pleasures of shopping

 Sir Sabaratnam Arulkatumaran , chairperson, at the publication of the Health Service Executive (HSE) clinical review report into the death of Savita Halappanavar on Thursday. Photograph: Eric Luke

Cascade of failures at Galway hospital highlighted

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: let it be known he did not intend to legislate for the X case before the last election. Photograph: Reuters

TDs risk being cast out for following the stated principles of their parties

Links Childcare creche in Malahide, Co Dublin, one of those featured in this week’s RTÉ Prime Time programme.  Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

Column: Quality childcare has taken second place to ensuring women can be ‘productive’ members of society

Stephanie Gray from Stepaside and Maria Gonzalez from Dublin at an anti-abortion demonstration in Dublin last January.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Column: Most of our legislators have shown themselves incapable of hearing anything that does not chime with introducing abortion (...)

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald holds the “Children First” document at its publication in July 2011 in Dublin Castle. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Column: Despite all our rhetoric about cherishing children, cultural factors stand in the way of progress

“If a publicly-funded body like Mabs was in the driving seat, the Government could not pretend it was unaware of the human cost of the austerity measures it is enforcing.” Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Column: The Central Bank’s proposed framework for restructuring debts at least makes an attempt to see people as human beings

Participants in an anti-abortion demonstration in Dublin in January.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Column: In what other instance would the Government consider killing another human being because a mother is in distress?

It does not matter if you set up panels with six doctors, or 600: there is no mental health benefit to abortion. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Column: Those who believe abortion should be available in Ireland are ignoring scientific evidence in favour of faith-based dogma (...)

Marchers cross O’Connell Street in Dublin at a recent Dublin Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride march. Photograph: David Sleator

Thoughtful conservatives are not bigoted, intellectually inferior or vile: they just see the balance of values differently

Jennifer Akandu (16), Owen Brennan (18), Unicef executive director Peter Power, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald and Clara Barry (16), at the launch this week of Unicef’s Report Card 11 on child wellbeing in rich countries. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA

Opinion: Sometimes the people who need it most receive neither justice nor mercy

A screen grab from the SpunOut website.  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Opposition to violent and degrading porn is an issue on which conservatives and progressives can unite

There should be a wraparound service of care from the moment of a child’s diagnosis.

Respite and homecare packages should be available to all regardless of location

People at a rally outside Leinster House protesting about the treatment of asylum seekers on  World Refugee Day in 2011. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

People living in ‘direct provision’ centres are lonely, fearful and sometimes malnourished

Francis will not change core church teachings, but he may have new priorities

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