© Catherine Scott

The decline of the family in Ireland, and the disintegration of society

Newly released data from Eurostat shows that the Republic of Ireland now has, along with Spain, Portugal and Italy, the lowest rate of marriage across the entire European Union. The marriage rate in Ireland was recorded as 1.9 per 1,000 in 2020. That compares to an EU average of 3.2.


The European average has declined from 8.0 per 1,000 in 1964. The rate of decline in Ireland has been equally as dramatic. The marriage rate was as high as 4.8 in 2014, and in historical terms the highest levels were reached in the early 1970s when it was around 7.4 per 1,000.


There has been a corresponding decline in the birth rate within the state, particularly among people born in Ireland. Even with the increased and increasing proportion of births among non- nationals, the long term projection for births in Ireland is for the birth rate to continue to decline steadily.

The most recent statistics from the Central Statistics Office also show that the average age at which people get married has risen. It was 38.2 in 2021. The average age in 2015 was 35, and that was up from 25 in the mid 1970s. That too has obvious implications for the number of births.


The fact than half of women in western countries are now childless at the age of 30 was recently referred to by Jordan Peterson. He cited it as evidence that there is something “profoundly wrong with the entire culture.”

He is correct, and you do not need to employ moral criteria to make that judgement. A population that is unable to naturally sustain itself is one that – in common with all previous human societies which have experienced such a phenomenon even if previously that was almost always the consequence of some external catastrophe – is in danger of disappearing. At the very least, those people will lose that part of the planet that was once associated with them as a people.

As Carle C. Zimmerman pointed out in his 1947 classic Family and Civilization, the question posed by the long term decline of the family as the centre of western civilization – as he discerned as evident particularly in the United States – was “no longer a moral one; it is social. It is no longer familistic; it is cultural.”

Zimmerman insisted that the only means to avoid the “Spenglerian end” of a west that has abandoned its fundamental social institution was the resurgence of forces that would reverse the trend to atomism and disintegration.

To do that required the assistance of a sympathetic political order – as we discussed in relation to Hungary – and a shift in the attitudes of an intelligentsia which Zimmerman already claimed had come to the view that “the family is the hobgoblin of society,” and most of whom were “in the enemy’s camp.” How much more true is that today?

To conclude, it is also perhaps worth while recalling that when Christianity and the Christian political order codified the laws around human relations, far from suppressing some romanticized prelapsarian ideal – as was claimed erroneously to have existed in ancient society by Lewis H. Morgan whose work was used by Marx and Friedrich Engels – it established a whole range of protections for women and children and people who were not part of the ruling elites.

Among these were the prohibition on incest, on polygamy, on forced marriages, on abortion and infanticide, and the refusal to sanction marriages based on abduction and rape. The Christian church and Christian rulers ensured that these became the norm throughout the period that is still known as the “Dark Ages” when Europe eventually overcame the forces of barbarism.

Those who blindly support the destruction of the foundations of western societies like to believe, after Engel’s spurious anthropology, that all of that was simply in order for “class society” to “cover the evils it necessarily creates” and that this in some miraculous fashion replaced a much nobler primitive society, and that it will in turn be replaced by an even higher form of social organisation.

The evidence not only of contemporary backward societies, and indeed of barbarian totalitarian socialism, but of the disintegration of western societies argue to the contrary.

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