A new report issued yesterday by the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection is “deeply misguided” in equating marriage and cohabitation, and in calling for the removal of disincentives in the social welfare code to marry or cohabit, the Iona Institute has said.
Only the disincentive to marry should be removed, it continued.
In a statement, Iona Institute director, David Quinn, said that the report Financial Disincentives to Marriage and Cohabitation, was to be “applauded for recognising that children benefit when both of their parents are involved in their lives.”
The report noted that, while single parenthood was not the only contributory factor to childhood poverty, higher rates of school dropout, teenage pregnancy or other negative outcomes are identified " in international literature to contribute independently to these problems.”
However, Mr Quinn said the report was “deeply misguided in equating marriage with cohabitation because the two can’t be equated.”
He added that cohabitation was “much less stable than marriage”, citing figures from the UK's Millennium Cohort Study showing that the children born to cohabiting parents were only half as likely to live with both parents throughout childhood compared with children born to married parents.
“Therefore, children raised by cohabiting parents are far less likely to live with both of those parents right through their childhood,” Mr Quinn said
He continue,: “The Committee is correct to recommend that the financial disincentives in the social welfare code that might prevent some couples from marrying be removed. But there must be a greater incentive to marry than to cohabit because of the benefits of marriage for children.”
“Both marriage and dual-parenting have sharply declined in the most socially deprived areas of Ireland in the last two decades. The State and civil society also, need to devote themselves to rebuilding a pro-marriage culture in those areas. Children, parents, and society can only benefit from this.”
The chairman of the Committee is Jackie Healy Rae. The other members are Fianna Fáil TDs Charlie O'Connor, Mattie McGrath, Cyprian Brady, Niall Blaney and Thomas Byrne, Fine Gael TDs Catherine Byrne, Billy Timmins, Fine Gael Mr. Michael Ring, and Bernard Durkan and Labour Party TD Rósín Shortall.
Fianna Fáil Senators Martin Brady, Larry Butler, Fine Gael Senator Nicky McFadden and Independent Senator Rónán Mullen were also on the Committee.
The Committee heard no testimony from pro-marriage groups.