Institute criticises O'Reilly's remarks


OMBUDSMAN EMILY O’Reilly has been criticised for saying last week that tax and social welfare laws were unfairly discriminating against tens of thousands of cohabiting couples in Ireland.

Presenting a report on complaints referred to her office by public representatives last Wednesday, she said the law was unsatisfactory and that anomalies between different codes were an ongoing source of resentment among cohabiting couples.

David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute, has responded that “cohabitation must not be made equivalent to marriage” and that it would be a “serious mistake” to make cohabitation equivalent to marriage in our tax code.

He continued: “Research shows that cohabiting relationships are much shorter-lived than marriage and this is particularly bad for children. British data from the Millennium Cohort Study shows that one in four children of cohabiting parents suffer family breakdown before they start school at the age of five. This compares with one in 10 children with married parents.”

It meant “that for the sake of children we need to encourage marriage by providing incentives to get married. In turn, that means giving it advantageous treatment in the tax and welfare codes.”

He added: “Cohabiting couples are not being discriminated against because they can exercise the choice to marry if they wish. In addition, according to one Irish study, three out of four cohabiting couples either marry or break up within the first seven years of the relationship forming.

“This is similar to overseas findings. Cohabitation is rarely seen by couples as a permanent alternative to marriage and the State should not treat it as such.”

The Iona Institute describes itself as “a pro-religion and pro-marriage organisation”.