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Marriage breakdown is the big liberal blind spot

To be pro-marriage these days is to be dismissed as an eccentric at best or a bigot at worst. You think I'm exaggerating? Then take heed of the following.

This week, new CSO figures revealed that the number of births taking place outside marriage keeps on rising. It is now one birth in every three and among 20-24 year olds it is the majority. But if you point out that this is a cause for alarm, you will be accused of victimising single parents.

Or if you point out that same-sex marriage or civil partnerships are a bad idea, and they are, you are accused of homophobia. If you suggest that the 500pc increase in marital breakdown that has occurred since 1986 is a bad thing, you're stigmatising divorced people.

As for cohabitation, well, it's up 400pc in only 10 years. But on your peril try pointing out that cohabiting couples are more likely to divorce than couples who don't first cohabit, or that cohabiting parents are twice as likely as married parents to split before their children are grown up. Again, you're offending people.

The pro-marriage argument is exceedingly simple. It is based on the indisputable fact that it is best, in general, for a child to be raised by a loving mother and father who are married. All counter-arguments must deny this. All counter-arguments must say that there is no special advantage in a child having a loving, married mum and dad.

But in fact, the argument rarely gets this far because it is short-circuited by accusations of judgmentalism, prejudice and even bigotry. Therefore, most people are now scared to defend marriage, scared to say it's best for a child to have a loving mother and father, scared of being labelled.

Politicians are the most scared of all. When is the last time you heard a politician, with one or two honourable exceptions, defend marriage as the best place for kids?

Instead we're told to celebrate 'family diversity', meaning every family should be supported just as much as the married family. Sounds fair enough, doesn't it? Who could be against that? But consider what we are being asked to celebrate.

What we are being asked to celebrate is more and more children not being raised by a married mother and father.

Certainly all families should be treated with respect and there are many good and understandable reasons why a child ends up without a father. All families in need should be helped.

But to say that every family -- cohabiting, single parent, gay etc -- is as beneficial for children as the family based on the marriage between a loving mother and father, is to say something that simply isn't true.

Consider the example of Limerick city where almost 60pc of children are born outside of marriage -- an astounding figure.

Now consider Moyross. In Moyross, the amount of marital breakdown is roughly three times the national average, and only around 40pc of families are marital families. There is lots of cohabitation and lots of single-parent families. Practically no other area in Ireland has more 'family diversity'.

The consequences are disastrous. Moyross is caught in a classic vicious circle. Poverty causes family breakdown, and family breakdown causes poverty. In turn, both help to cause crime. As this paper reported on Monday, small children in some parts of Limerick city are now being inducted into the criminal gangs and children as young as eight are burning families out of their homes.

Liberals are more than willing to accept the connection between poverty, crime, and other social problems. However, they fiercely resist linking marriage breakdown with social problems and if anyone has the temerity to do so, they are pilloried as prejudiced.

This is a colossal and dangerous blind spot. A refusal to accept that the decline of marriage is very bad for society is similar to the blind spot that had us refusing to accept that we had an enormous property bubble on our hands which resulted in economic calamity.

Worse than that, liberals insist on calling family breakdown 'family diversity'. Instead of lamenting it, they insist on us celebrating it. Only a society that has completely lost its bearings could do such a thing.

In places like Moyross, as elsewhere, 'family diversity' generally means, no father. The Chief Superintendent of Limerick, Willie Keane, has said the result is that the gangs take the place of the fathers.

Meanwhile, Brendan Dempsey, head of the St Vincent de Paul in Cork, says that in parts of Cork city nine in every 10 homes visited by society members are run by lone parents and there is no dad to be seen. Some children ask him if he will be their daddy. That is simply tragic.

If we fix marriage in areas like Moyross, we are half-way to fixing the problems of Moyross. Promoting marriage would be a much better thing than passing ever tougher anti-gang laws such as were announced by the Government this week.

But disastrously, we are too busy disguising family breakdown as family diversity to even consider something as sensible as that.