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Women must be able to choose motherhood

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It's OK for mothers to be OK. (Picture posed)

It's OK for mothers to be OK. (Picture posed)

It's OK for mothers to be OK. (Picture posed)

ONE fundamental question screams out at us from the findings of a survey on young women's attitude to motherhood.

We must ask ourselves: do we want people in this country - or are we content to muddle along and ignore the issue?

Today we bring you the findings of an opinion poll for the Irish Independent and Today FM, which tells us one-third of women in their thirties say they have delayed having children because of financial pressures. The thirties are the most likely time for a woman to have children.

The survey again highlights something we have put the spotlight on in the recent past in this newspaper.

It is that childcare is prohibitively expensive and a big factor in parents' decisions to delay having children and curtail family size.

Add to that the disturbing reality that women are only half as likely as men to have had a recent pay rise. This again compounds the pressure on women as they contemplate whether or not to have children.

Despite advances on gender equality, there are still many issues for women trying to combine work and family.

Of course, these issues also affect men - but the simple physical reality is that very often the brunt of the pressure to make difficult choices about work and family falls upon women.

In some ways, the pressure upon women has actually increased over the past 40 years. These days it is not just the reality of more work opportunities being open to young women, you must also factor in the cost of establishing a home, which makes it imperative that both partners in a relationship work and earn.

There may be a certain smugness because Ireland has until recently enjoyed the highest birth rate in the EU. But in many EU countries the birth rate is dangerously low and Ireland's birth rate is also now falling.

Any of us not enthused by arguments of decent societal values and fairness might do well to consider another basic reality.

If women in their thirties are not having children, who will, in due course, be working to pay pensions for people in their sixties and beyond?

We must tread carefully over sale of Aer Lingus

It is too early to say whether the takeover of Aer Lingus by a foreign consortium of airlines would be good for the country but the Government is right to be concerned.

The money generated for the State from this sale is insignificant compared with the possible implications for the country as a whole.

As a small island-trading nation, we depend on our airlines to keep this country connected. Aer Lingus has excellent connection to Europe's biggest airport and this must continue. Whether Aer Lingus or Ryanair controls those slots does not matter but it is important that the Dublin-to-Heathrow route is not diminished or dominated by a single airline.

While these considerations are important, the Government must also weigh up the consequences of leaving Aer Lingus without a powerful partner. The airline is reliant on a few routes but fierce competition could one day leave it vulnerable to a less advantageous takeover. Governments should rarely make business decisions but this is one example where slow deliberation makes sense.

Irish Independent