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Is North Ireland non-European?

In this morning’s The Times of Malta I tried to answer Kurt Sansone’s question whether our membership of the EU has had anything to do with the introduction of divorce, gay marriage and gay adoptions. I answered in the negative.

Dr Michael Brigulio was of the same opinion.

It is very clear that the socio-cultural milieu that led to the introduction of these subjects has nothing to do with the EU institutions. The answer lies elsewhere and therefore the argument that who was against such innovations is not a European is not correct.

Let’s take the gay marriage issue.

While many – in my opinion rightly so – are all for the granting of legal recognition to gay relationships, many more are not in favour of calling it marriage. The latest example was given yesterday by the Northern Ireland Assembly which for the third time in 18 months has rejected a motion calling for the introduction of same-sex marriage during a debate at Stormont. A total of 51 assembly members (MLAs) voted against. Are they not European?

Since Malta has just passed through a similar debate it could be interesting to note the position taken by the North Ireland Catholic bishops led by Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh. On the eve of the vote they sent an open letter to all members of the assembly urging them to vote against the motion ironically called ‘Marriage Equality.’

The bishops stated that being in favour of marriage between a man and a woman does not imply discrimination against gay couple.

“As a Church we believe every person is equal in the sight of God and should always be treated with dignity and respect. Inspired by the Gospel, we oppose all unjust discrimination, harassment and violence and are committed to working for the common good in which the needs of the vulnerable, the marginalised and the poor are of fundamental concern.”

Many who tout the argument that being against the legalisation of gay marriage is tantamount to discrimination should perhaps remember that the European Convention on Human Rights does not recognise same-sex ‘marriage’ as a right and the European Courts have consistently upheld the right and freedom of member States not to redefine marriage in this way.

The bishops of North Ireland say that their conviction against the legalisation of gay marriage is based on human reason and not just on religious conviction.

“Religious and non-religious people alike have long acknowledged and know from their experience that the family, based on the marriage of a woman and a man, is the best and ideal place for children. It is a fundamental building block of society which makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good. It is therefore deserving of special recognition and promotion by the State.”

It is fashionable today to attribute to Pope Francis all the things he never said. The bishops put the record straight: the Pope is against gay marriage. He recently said that “we must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity” (16 April 2014).

The bishops acknowledge that “there will always be situations in which the best interests of a particular child can only be met in a different type of arrangement. It is important that the State provides for and gives practical support to these arrangements. This is different, however, from saying that having children raised by their biological parents in a life-long committed marriage is no longer essential to the common good and deserving of special recognition by the State.”

Let me add one concluding comment. Abortion is fully legal in all European countries – not just EU ones. Several agencies of the United Nations have been pushing for abortion. I will not be surprised if within a couple of years or perhaps even less, Malta will witness a growing movement in favour of abortion and euthanasia. It will be the spirit of relativism and subjectivity which are taking the upper hand in contemporary culture that will push us in that direction and not the EU institutions.

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