By Sarah Mac Donald - 12 February, 2020
The President of Accord, Bishop Denis Nulty, has said the new government, when it is formed, should appoint a Minister for the Family to look after the welfare of families.
Speaking to CatholicIreland.net on Tuesday, Bishop Nulty said, “At this time where we see a government being formed, I think there should be a minister appointed for the family to look after the welfare of families because the family is the bedrock on which society is built.”
Dr Nulty was speaking after new figures for Accord were released at Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin and the President of Accord blessed engaged couple Michelle Connolly and Jonathan Hanley at the shrine of St Valentine.
The latest figures show that 14,894 individuals last year attended one of Accord’s sacramental marriage preparation courses.
They also show that 24,006 counselling sessions were provided by Accord’s counsellors to couples and individuals experiencing relationship difficulties across the organisation’s 54 centres on the island of Ireland.
Common problem areas in relationships identified by couples included communication with 22% of couples stating that they and their partner were never or seldom able to talk and listen to each other; 36% felt they were always or often ignored or not listened to by their partner; and 26% felt they were always or often criticised or insulted by their partner.
Another area related to problematic behaviour by one member of the couple and 13% of those who came to Accord for counselling said their own or their partner’s use of alcohol was always or often problematic; 3% reported their own or their partner’s use of drugs was always or often problematic and 3% reported gambling as a problem.
Another area of concern identified by 17% of those who sought counselling was the use of a phone or texting, internet or social media while 23% reported that trust in the relationship was always or often affected by problem behaviours such as overuse of a phone or the internet.
On the matter of intimacy, 36% reported that they never or seldom experienced closeness and affection with their partner; 48% described their sexual relationship as either absent, poor or very poor and 18% reported difficulty always or often having sex.
Mary Johnston, Specialist in Counselling with Accord, told CatholicIreland.net that one of the positives today was that “there is not as much of a stigma about coming for counselling”.
“Many years back people would travel a distance to go to an Accord centre that was out of their own local area, but now people come locally because they realise that it is something that can be helpful and they don’t feel embarrassed.”
She added, “If a relationship is in difficulty, if communication is difficult and if there are difficult behaviours, it is a very hard place to be. So it is better to try and address it and see where you can get.”
In recent years, Accord has introduced a review system to measure outcomes. Analysis of research into about 3,000 cases which the organisation dealt with over 2016/17 across the island of Ireland, showed that 75% of couples had seen an improvement in their relationship after counselling.
“You have to measure how you are doing so we hope to do other research further down the road. It is not all about output, it is about outcomes as well. It takes finance and resources to be able to do that, so hopefully we will continue to be resourced,” she said.
Bishop Nulty also stressed the importance of counselling when speaking to CatholicIreland.net.
“Counselling is important because it helps families. We need to resource our counselling even more. I am very appreciative to Tusla and other funders and the dioceses that support us but I am also saying this is a big area and this is a big issue.”
The President of Accord also expressed solidarity with couples challenged to find a home.
“There is not a couple getting married today who isn’t challenged. Our economy, we are told, is buoyant but how much people feel it in their pockets is another issue.”
“A home is important to rear a family. Rearing a family in a hotel room… it is only a short-term remedy. Long term we have got to give people a home. It is in that home that they become part of a parish, a community, a society. So, we need to work harder at that and that is a big challenge for the Government, and I wish the Government well because this is not an easy one.”
Engaged couple blessed by Bishop Nulty at the Shrine of St Valentine
Michelle Connolly is from Dublin 15 and her fiancé, Jonathan Hanley, is from Co Roscommon. Michelle works as a primary school teacher and Jonathan is a principal of a primary school in Dublin 12.
The couple met in 2012 while they were both studying a Postgraduate Certificate of Education in St Mary’s University, a Catholic institution of higher education in Twickenham, London.
“We first met while studying primary school teaching in Saint Mary’s University in London. We really enjoyed our two years there but it was always our wish to come home to teach. Therefore, we made the decision to return to Dublin in 2014,” Michelle explained.
According to Jonathan, “We share many interests together such as traveling and exploring new places, eating out, keeping fit and spending time with our friends. We are looking forward to our wedding day and marriage next year and to celebrating our special day with family and friends.”
The couple will be married in 2021 in St Mochta’s Church, Porterstown, in the Archdiocese of Dublin.
The latest figures from Accord can be read here: https://www.catholicbishops.ie/2020/02/11/bishop-denis-nulty-blessing-of-engaged-couple-at-shrine-of-saint-valentine/