‘Irish Times’/IpsosMRBI values poll show positive indications at the heart of Irish society

Families with teenage children and unemployed parents remain encumbered by expensive mortgages and detritus from the financial crash


Irish people are good at counting their blessings. Down the decades, surveys have found us to be one of the most contented communities in Europe. The collapse of the Celtic Tiger and seven years of recession have failed to destroy that positive outlook and, on the basis of a detailed Irish Times/IpsosMRBI attitudinal survey, people can look to the future with confidence. The next generation is expected to experience a better quality of life.

The frothy lifestyle of the boom years and the dramatic social changes that went with it has been placed in context. Four out of five adults now acknowledge that they enjoy a higher standard of living than their parents, along with increased financial security. Not only that: relationships with their spouses and children are better than those experienced by their own parents. Standards of education are higher and the trend is expected to continue. The legalisation of contraception and divorce has not damaged family values. On the basis of this survey, relationships between spouses are closer and better balanced than in previous generations, with men taking a more active role within the family and having a closer bond to their children.

The centrality of the family is reflected in a desire by parents that their children would look after them in old age. The thought of living or dying at home remains a key comfort. A variety of supports provided within the extended family, particularly in relation to childminding, remain crucial. In an employment system involving expensive childcare and minimal government assistance, grandparents remain the primary childminders for many working parents.

Not everyone is happy or optimistic. Families with teenage children and unemployed parents remain encumbered by expensive mortgages and detritus from the financial crash. They are least positive about their economic prospects and, clearly, will require some government assistance as the financial situation improves. Poverty remains a consistent threat for many, as do inadequate public services. In rebuilding the economy, the Government must not make the mistakes of its predecessors and favour wealth creation over a sustainable and egalitarian system.

Religion remains a central pillar in an innately conservative society and parents report that four out of five children believe in God. Nine out of ten children are baptised, with the highest incidence from amongst single parent families. And while one-third of youngsters are taken to church on a regular basis, a majority of parents believe that baptised children should not receive priority in admission to local, Catholic-run, schools. This broad, non-discriminatory attitude is heartening. Education for all on a equal basis should become the standard. As the Irish proverb puts it: Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí.