Royal cou­ple will do some com­mon good by evok­ing value of mar­riage

Irish Independent - - Comment - Michael Kelly

IN HER fas­ci­nat­ing book re­count­ing the love-hate re­la­tion­ship be­tween Ir­ish peo­ple and the Bri­tish monar­chy, jour­nal­ist Mary Kenny – of this par­ish – tells hi­lar­i­ous sto­ries about the length to which some peo­ple have gone down the years to con­ceal their in­ter­est in the Bri­tish royal fam­ily.

‘Crown and Shamrock’ tells the sto­ries of Dublin fam­i­lies who pur­chased tele­vi­sion sets for the sole pur­pose of watch­ing a royal wed­ding – as word got around, neigh­bours would dis­creetly ask if they too could watch the spec­ta­cle.

There are also tales of wellto-do ladies who pre­vailed upon their hair­dressers to give them the lat­est ‘do’ be­ing sported by Queen El­iz­a­beth or Princess Mar­garet while keep­ing mum about the orig­i­nal in­spi­ra­tion for the style.

Those in­ter­ested in a bit of royal voyeurism don’t have to be as dis­creet as in pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

The hugely suc­cess­ful visit to Ire­land by Queen El­iz­a­beth ver­balised a love that dared not to speak its name be­fore that mo­ment for many Ir­ish peo­ple.

Even if a Done­gal ho­tel was forced to can­cel a Meghan and Harry-themed af­ter­noon tea af­ter ap­par­ently re­ceiv­ing in­tim­i­dat­ing phone calls from peo­ple de­scrib­ing them­selves as repub­li­cans, many Ir­ish peo­ple will take more than a pass­ing in­ter­est in the pomp and cer­e­mony sur­round­ing Wind­sor Cas­tle to­mor­row.

Of course, some will say it’s only to see the style or have an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the news value, but many Ir­ish peo­ple are in­deed fas­ci­nated by the royals and nowa­days, it’s OK to be out, loud and proud.

They won’t be alone – hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple are ex­pected to watch the cer­e­mony. It’s not my cup of tea, but I have no de­sire to spoil the gen­uine ex­cite­ment and en­joy­ment shared by so many.

What I do un­der­stand, and share the de­light in, is the love that prompts such a wed­ding – and by all ac­counts the young cou­ple are very much in love. And amidst the mix­ture of glam­our and fri­vol­ity that will mark the big day, Meghan and Harry (pic­tured) are send­ing a pow­er­ful mes­sage to the world that mar­riage still mat­ters and they want to seal their love be­fore God.

Meghan even took the un­nec­es­sary step of be­ing bap­tised into the Church of Eng­land to en­sure that it could be a mean­ing­ful reli­gious cer­e­mony. The fact they be­lieve that stand­ing to­gether ex­chang­ing vows mat­ters is a vi­tal mes­sage since mar­riage still re­mains so­ci­ety’s great­est bul­wark against poverty, ed­u­ca­tional disad­van­tage and so­cial ex­clu­sion.

That’s why both Church and State should have a vested in­ter­est in pro­mot­ing mar­riage and mak­ing it more ap­peal­ing for the many cou­ples who now choose to live to­gether rather than get mar­ried.

Strong fam­i­lies based on strong mar­riages cre­ate strong so­ci­eties where peo­ple look af­ter one an­other and those in need of a lit­tle more help get it from fam­i­lies rather than fall­ing be­tween two stools.

It’s be­come un­fash­ion­able to say that mar­riage mat­ters. The fact that fam­i­lies come in all shapes and sizes has meant many peo­ple now think pro­mot­ing mar­riage as a good for so­ci­ety runs the risk of ex­clud­ing oth­ers – not with­out rea­son.

Let’s face it, for a long pe­riod of our mod­ern his­tory Ire­land wasn’t a very nice place to be if you didn’t fit a par­tic­u­lar so­ci­etal mode. But this shouldn’t stop us draw­ing on the ev­i­dence that mar­riage is good for so­ci­ety.

And we should be con­cerned there is an in­creas­ing gap be­tween so­cial classes on the is­sue of mar­riage. Lat­est ev­i­dence from the Cen­tral Sta­tis­tics Of­fice re­veals a per­son’s chance of mar­ry­ing is hugely af­fected by the so­cial class they are born into.

Up­per pro­fes­sional work­ers are more than twice as likely as un­skilled work­ers to be mar­ried. The huge dis­crep­ancy shows there are for­mi­da­ble so­cial im­ped­i­ments to mar­ry­ing if you are from a so­cially dis­ad­van­taged group. These im­ped­i­ments need to be fully ex­plored and, where pos­si­ble, re­moved.

The fig­ures show that 65.7pc of up­per pro­fes­sional work­ers aged 18-49 are likely to be mar­ried, com­pared with just 31.8pc of un­skilled or ele­men­tary work­ers.

Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy of the US Supreme Court has de­scribed mar­riage as the gold stan­dard for rais­ing healthy, happy, well-ad­justed chil­dren in the best po­si­tion to take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­ni­ties life puts be­fore them.

PEO­PLE like Meghan and Harry know that and study af­ter study proves it to be the case. This is not about dis­parag­ing peo­ple who aren’t mar­ried, nor hold­ing it up as a utopian ideal, but about help­ing cou­ples to see that, in a world of con­stant flux, com­mit­ting to try to be to­gether, for bet­ter or worse, in sick­ness and in health, is a pow­er­ful mes­sage.

Nei­ther Meghan nor Harry have had the best ex­pe­ri­ence of mar­riage grow­ing up – their par­ents di­vorced when they were chil­dren – but in com­mit­ting to one an­other to­mor­row with solemn vows be­fore the eyes of the world, they are say­ing mar­riage still mat­ters.

In the words of Jus­tice Kennedy, they are pow­er­fully af­firm­ing they be­lieve “no union is more pro­found than mar­riage, for it em­bod­ies the high­est ideals of love, fi­delity, de­vo­tion, sac­ri­fice and fam­ily”. Ina­world of­ten jaded by cyn­i­cism about fleet­ing encounters or mar­riages that don’t work, Meghan and Harry’s op­ti­mism is some­thing worth celebrating.

Michael Kelly is Ed­i­tor of ‘The Ir­ish Catholic’ news­pa­per.

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