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Norris claims Iona Institute ‘tried to mislead constitutional convention’

Norris has called for an inquiry into whether the conservative think-tank misrepresented a study about child parenting.


THERE HAVE BEEN calls for an investigation into allegations that the Iona Institute tried to mislead last weekend’s Constitutional Convention hearings on same-sex marriage.

Senator David Norris has sought an inquiry into whether the conservative think-tank deliberately cited an academic paper arguing in favour of a child being raised by its biological parents, presenting it as an argument in favour of excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage.

The Iona Institute’s submission to the convention summarised the paper as follows:

Research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage… There is thus value in promoting strong, stable marriage between biological parents.

When accessed online now, however, the study carries a disclaimer on the front page from its authors – saying the research summarised surveys in 2002 which identified neither same-sex nor adoptive parents.

“Therefore, no conclusions can drawn from this research about the well-being of children raised by same-sex or adoptive parents,” it says.

Yesterday Norris claimed that the Iona Institute had “knowingly” misled the Convention and its members by quoting from the Child First study without including the authors’ caveat. “The authors actually contacted the Convention to make this plain,” he told the Seanad.

Norris said the claims were serious and asked acting Seanad leader Ivana Bacik to contact the Convention with the concerns, and then to establish more about the Iona Institute.

“If people are deliberately misleading a body established by the Oireachtas, in the plain knowledge that the authors of the research have said it must not be used in this situation, that is a matter that should trouble all of us who believe in truth, and integrity, and in the decency of public standards,” Norris said.

“I would share Senator Norris’s concerns about that, and I would certainly be happy to contact the Convention to pass on your comments,” Bacik said in response.

“Perhaps you might get onto the Iona Institute to see what they have to say as well,” interjected Rónán Mullen. All three senators – Norris, Bacik and Mullen – are members of the convention.

Last night Iona Institute director David Quinn rejected the claims – telling TheJournal.ie that the alleged misrepresentation was, itself, a misrepresentation of Iona’s submission.

“If we had used that quote to say research shows children do worse when raised by same-sex couples then the accusation would have force,” he said, “but we did not use it in that context.

It was used in a section of our submission where we set out the reasons why marriage per se has special status in law as compared with other forms of family. In a separate section we address what a different set of research has to say about children raised by same-sex couples, which is very little one way or the other.

Quinn said a greater concern was that some other groups at the convention had “quoted research purporting to show that children raised by same-sex couples do just as well as children raised by a married mother and father”.

Those groups had “downplayed the very serious flaws in that body of research,” he said.

Read: Vote for civil marriage for same-sex couples ‘an historic step’

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