Seanad debates

Wednesday, 5 May 2004

6:00 pm

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)

I compliment Senator Henry, Senator Norris and the other Senators who raised this matter. We are here as legislators to respond and to take regard of evolution in society. In our lifetimes a spontaneous evolution of family and relationships has taken place. It is difficult to believe the change in the perception of marriage and homosexuality from that held only 20 years ago to the view that is held today. What is wonderful about 2004 is that we have become more tolerant and I am pleased to be part of that move.

In our Constitution the family is seen as the married couple. Research in the United States leaves no doubt but that children raised by two parents have better opportunities. A child raised by two people has an easier life and more opportunities than a child brought up by a lone parent because of the greater earning power of two people.

I would like us to evolve in the manner suggested by Senator Henry. We have 90,000 one-parent families with children under 19 years of age. We have 77,000 co-habiting couples and one third of all births are outside marriage. I do not believe that our laws cater for the children from these relationships. Children are invisible in the eyes of the law. Our law must evolve to take into consideration children who do not get equal opportunities to those of children of a two-parent family. The State has a responsibility to look after those children.

I have often pointed out that the Government has a responsibility to those who are less well off. It must be concerned about the children of single mothers, the cost of crèches, etc. The State must look after the human rights of each of its children. They did not ask to be born. We have an obligation as legislators to look after the children and to protect them from the changes that have taken place in society.


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