Debate on marriage and children


Madam, - Patricia Casey (Opinion & Analysis, April 15th) quotes evidence that children brought up in marriages between their biological parents "do better" on average. On the basis of this accurate summary of research on children's outcomes, she argues that the Government should incentivise marriage, "marriage-proof" some policies and refuse to extend benefits to family forms falling outside marriage, all for the good of our children.

Presumably, then, given evidence that children of poor parents do worse on average, Prof Casey would also support extra incentives for people to get rich, the "rich proofing" of some policies and the State offering extra legal protections to rich families? Similarly, given evidence that children of certain religious faiths do better, she would support extra financial incentives and protections for members of those faiths, plus incentives for others to convert?

These examples appear absurd only because discrimination based on socio-economic status or religious affiliation is now almost universally considered wrong. Meanwhile, discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and marital status remains widespread.

If one social group has better outcomes on average than others, it does not constitute legitimate grounds for the Government to discriminate in its favour. To argue otherwise is to dress up prejudice as evidence-based policy advice. - Yours, etc,

PETE LUNN, Bloomfield Avenue, Dublin 8.

Madam, - I read with interest the two opinion columns on family diversity in your edition of April 15th. One of joys of The Irish Timesis being able to read a diverse range of opinions. However, I think you failed in terms of disclosure when describing Patricia Casey as a professor of psychiatry and a consultant psychiatrist. She is a professor and psychiatrist of some distinction; however, she is also a patron of the Iona Institute, which is dedicated to the strengthening of civil society through marriage and religious practice.

Your excellent columnist Breda O'Brien, who regularly writes on social affairs, is also a patron of the Institute. As the debate continues on the definition of the family in Ireland, I look forward to hearing more from these articulate contributors. I respect their willingness to debate the issues even if I am not often in agreement with them. However, I think your readers deserve to know your contributors' affiliations when considering their opinions or analysis. - Yours, etc,

GARRETT MURRAY, The Tramyard, Inchicore, Dublin 8

Madam, - In her opinion piece in your edition of April 15th, Prof Patricia Casey refers to Unicef to support her view that "children do best when raised by their biological mothers and fathers in a long-term relationship". Unicef does not make any judgments on the well being of children growing up with same-sex parents, or indeed on whether children are better off being raised by married parents.

Prof Casey's reference to Unicef, with regard to the current debate on same-sex marriage and parenting, is incorrect and unacceptable. - Yours, etc,

MELANIE VERWOERD, Executive Director, Unicef Ireland, Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1.