Iona Institute logo
|Motto||For Religion and Society |
|Mission||Promotion of religion and socially conservative values|
|Key people||Patricia Casey
|Address||23 Merrion Square, Dublin|
The Iona Institute is a conservative Catholic lobby group based in Ireland. Founded by David Quinn, a commentator on religious affairs, it was launched publicly in 2007. The psychiatrist Patricia Casey and journalist Breda O'Brien are amongst its patrons.
The institute advocates religion and opposes same-sex marriage and supported limited civil partnerships with broad-based religious freedom protections. It posits that rising crime, family breakdown, drug abuse and other social problems are typical of a "weakened society" and that such a society will fail to recognise the importance of marriage and religion unless an evidence-based case was made. Since its foundation, the Institute has released a number of reports to this end.
In an article in The Irish Times by Kathy Sheridan on same-sex marriage, the institute was described as being "blessed with extremely high-profile members with priceless multimedia platforms" and "'very, very engaged' with politicians".
The Iona Institute promotes traditional heterosexual marriage and opposes same-sex marriage in society.
The institute claims that children fare best when raised by a mother and father who are married to each other and that, where possible, children have a right to a mother and father. The Iona Institute has been accused of homophobia because of their opposition to the Irish government recognising same-sex marriages. The organisation has been criticised for an over-reliance on invalid interpretations of data to back their claims.
In December 2012, the institute released a video on YouTube, arguing that marriage can only be between a man and a woman and that blocking gay couples from marriage was not discrimination. The video gained notoriety after the institute's YouTube account was temporarily suspended and its director, David Quinn, initially alleged censorship. The video was subsequently parodied by activists in favour of same-sex marriage.
In September 2007, Gay Mitchell MEP hosted a conference named "The Fragmenting Family" on behalf of the Iona Institute. A later report of the same name drew heavily on data from Census 2006 and claimed that between 1986 and 2006 marital breakdown in Ireland rose by 500%. However, the report was criticised by Fergus Finlay because it used figures from the 1986 census (before divorce was legalised in Ireland), and that the figures actually suggest that marriage breakdown had been slowing down since the 1990s. A 2010 report by the ERSI confirms that "[t]he evidence suggests no significant upward shift in marital breakdown as a result of the advent of divorce in 1997". In 2004, Ireland had the lowest divorce rate in Europe with 7 divorces per 1,000 compared to the EU average of 21 per 1,000.
In September 2013, the Institute published another paper, Marriage Breakdown and Family Structure in Ireland: A report based on Census 2011 
. | More than 450,000 children being raised outside of marriage
According to the report, there was a 500 percent increase in the number of broken marriages in Ireland between 1986 and 2011(affecting 247,000 adults in total).
Using Census data, it also revealed a 360 percent increase in the number of cohabiting couples since 1996, a 119 percent increase in the number of children being raised outside marriage and a 106 percent increase in the number of single parent families, the report says.
Married couples and tax
The Iona Institute’s first policy document, "Tax Individualisation: Time for a Critical Rethink", was published in 2007. Written by barrister John P Byrne, the document says that families where only one parent stayed at home were discriminated against by the current tax individualisation policy. The paper advocated an increase in the level of the Home Carer's Allowance. Subsequently, both Labour and Fine Gael launched policies on the issue which were substantially similar.
In May 2011, the Iona Institute hosted a conference entitled "Women, home and work: Towards a policy that’s fair to all families", which highlighted the social policies that it claims unfairly discriminate in favour of working women over mothers who wish to spend some or all of their working lives at home with their children.
The Iona Institute says it believes that the principle of parental choice must be respected by the state when it comes to the schools debate. This includes the right to send their children to a faith-based school if the parents so wish, and that such schools have a right to receive state funding. As of 2010, mainstream primary schools were over 90% Roman Cathoic.
In April 2008, the Iona Institute hosted a conference in conjunction with the Word Magazine entitled "In defence of denominational education". The conference also highlighted a posited move by the European Union, which would require Ireland to scrap Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act 2000. Section 37 provides an exemption for religious schools from the equality legislation and allows them to discriminate based on religion. This section has been opposed by the Irish National Teachers' Organisation since its introduction.
In March 2009, the institute commissioned a survey by polling company Red C which showed that three quarters of parents believed that they should be able to choose from a range of schools, as against the idea of wholly State-provided education.
In March 2012, the institute hosted another conference on the subject of denominational education, this time in response to proposals made by the Government's Forum on Patronage and Pluralism. Among the proposals was the abolition of Rule 68, which enables denominational schools to permeate the school day with their ethos.
The conference, entitled "Denominational Schools in a Pluralist Ireland", heard from a range of speakers as to how denominational schools could be authentic to their own ethos and inclusive at the same time. Fr Michael Drumm, chair of the Catholic Schools Partnership, while welcoming some of the recommendations of the forum, warned that measures to weaken the denominational character of faith schools would, in his opinion, harm educational diversity. Fr Drumm said that if such moves were implemented "[t]he issue of divesting schools then would be largely redundant as the denominational identity of schools would be so diluted as to be irrelevant".
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath, the Rt Rev Richard Clarke, told the conference that the Department of Education's cuts to school grants disproportionately affected Protestant schools.
The Iona Institute believes that public and private employees should not be forced to act against their religious beliefs by their employers. For example, in April 2010, the Institute supported the stance taken by Dr Phil Boyle, a fertility doctor based in Galway, who will only offer fertility treatment to married couples because of his Catholic beliefs.
In September 2010, the institute hosted a conference entitled "In Defence of Religious Freedom". A number of speakers spoke on how what it terms "aggressive secularism" posed a threat to rights of conscience.
To coincide with Easter 2007, the institute and the Evangelical Alliance published an opinion poll investigating the level of public knowledge of Christianity, the first such poll of its kind in Ireland. The poll showed that a majority of young people were unfamiliar with basic aspects of Christian and Catholic teaching, such as transubstantiation. In December 2007, a similar poll commissioned by the Institute performed in Northern Ireland gave similar results.
In March 2010, the institute launched a poster campaign to highlight the body of scientific research claiming to show the mental and physical health benefits of religious practice. A paper, "The Benefits of Religious Practice", written by one of its patrons, Patricia Casey, was launched at a conference with the same title.
Public beliefs about the percentage of priests guilty of child sex abuse
In November 2011, the Iona Institute commissioned a poll by Amarach Research. The results of the poll showed that almost 50pc of Irish people thought that a fifth of priests were guilty of child abuse. Of these, 27 percent believe the number exceeds 40 percent, and 18 percent put it above 50 percent.
Five percent of the public believe that between 90 percent and 100 percent of all Catholic priests are guilty of child abuse. Research from the US suggests that four percent of clerics are guilty of such abuse.
- David Quinn discussed the project with Ryan Tubridy on his RTÉ Radio One show of 24 January 2007. You can listen to the discussion here. The discussion is at 36min 24sec into the show. RealPlayer required.
- Tighe, Mark (2009-10-25). "Gay activists attack bill optout plan". The Sunday Times (London). Archived from the original on 2010-08-12. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- "Personnel and Patrons". Iona Institute. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- http://www.ionainstitute.ie/pdfs/civilunionweb.pdf. Missing or empty
- Finlay, Fergus (18 September 2007). "Broken marriages: the floodgates are a long way from bursting yet". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- The Benefits of Religious Practice
- Sheridan, Kathy.  "How gay marriage went mainstream", The Irish Times, 14 July 2012.
- Grainne Healy of MarriagEquality criticises Patricia Casey's argument against same-sex marriage
- Letter by Christopher Robson[undue weight? ]
- Noeline Blackwell; Liam Herrick; Mark Kelly (29 July 2008). "Attack on UN rights body just doesn't bear scrutiny". Irish Independent. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
- "Irish Catholic group in spotlight over censorship row". Al Jazeera. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
- http://www.cinews.ie/article.php?artid=3941 | Increase in marriage breakdown a disaster for children, says expert
- O'Brien, Carl (6 September 2007). "Marriage breakdown up 500% in last 20 years". The Irish Times. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
- Lunn, Pete; Fahey, Tony; Hannan, Carmel. "Family Figures: Family Dynamics and Family Types in Ireland, 1986-2006". Economic and Social Research Institute. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
- Sweeney, Conor (13 May 2006). "Divorce rate here lower than the rest of Europe". The Irish Independent. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
- 'Women and work policies unfair, conference told' Irish Times 27 May 2011, 'Irish women "sold childcare myth created by EU"' Irish Examiner, 27 May 2011
- Mainstream National Primary Schools 2010-2011 School Year. Enrolment as on 30 September 2010, Statistic delivered by Department of Education and Skills website. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
- 'Church takes advice on equality finding', Irish Times, Saturday, 5 April 2008
- "Employment Equality Act 1998, Equal Status Act 2000 - Questions and Answers". Irish National Teachers' Organisation. July 2003. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
- 'Parents demand right to pick schools for children,' Irish Independent, 25 March 2009
- 'Strong differences persist over school patronage,' Irish Examiner, 20 March 2012
- 'Budget 'damages C of I schools,' Irish Times, 15 March 2012
- "Infertility treatment refusal led to inquiry," Irish Times, 15 April 2010
- http://www.ionainstitute.ie/pdfs/Iona_Religious_knowledge_pollApr07.pdf Religious knowledge poll, Republic of Ireland, The Iona Institute and Evangelical Alliance, April 2007
- "Survey reveals low level of religious knowledge in young". The Irish Times. 9 April 2007. Retrieved 16 February 2012.[dead link]
- http://www.ionainstitute.ie/pdfs/NI_religion_poll.pdf Northern Ireland religious knowledge poll, Iona Institute and Evangelical Alliance
- 'Campaign to promote religion launched' Irish Times 30 March 2010
- 'Religion makes us healthier, says study,' Irish Times, 9 April 2010
- "Media called on to report true scale of child abuse", Irish Times, 1 November 2011