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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 9 July, 2002, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Family life at heart of rural community
The concept of traditional family values is very much alive in a small, rural community in south Londonderry.

For fewer births occur outside marriage in the Magherafelt area than anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that only 18.5% of births in the area were outside marriage compared to a national average of 39%.

The rector of Magherafelt, Reverend Terrance Scott, says a contributory factor is that Magherafelt remains a close-knit rural area.


Love and marriage is a great idea - the best in the world

Ron Sterling
Youth officer

"That sense of traditional values with the stable family unit at the centre of community life remains important for very many people," he said.

Father Pat Crilly, a parish priest in Dessertmartin, believes the figure indicates that young people in the area are following the example of good family life.

"They find it positive and it's encouraging them to live, not necessarily in a traditional sense but to live out of the wisdom of the traditional values and the wisdom which they have inherited across the generations," he said.

"I know the influences that are on them and I know where they get their values from."

The Reverend William McCrea, who also proclaims his message through song, says the figure shows that people value traditional standards.

"This is something which we're very proud of," said the minister.

Reverend William McCrea:
Reverend William McCrea: "People value traditional standards"

"Family life is very precious. Marriage is very precious. Society in many places frowns upon the statement of marriage, and children within the marriage bonds and within the family unit.

"I think that is something which we've got to restate over and over again."

Presbyterian Church youth officer Ron Sterling is also pleased with the figure.

She said: "The idea of being in a married relationship is certainly under tremendous pressure. Young people live in a society today where to be single is the cool in thing. But it's not single and abstaining, it's single with multiple partners."

'Virgin'

She encourages young people not to submit blindly to media or peer pressure.

"What we're trying to help young people to see is that they can be proud to be pure. They can be proud to be a virgin. They don't have to feel that this is a fuddy duddy old fashioned way of approaching their sexuality.

"In fact, the very opposite. Love and marriage is a great idea. In fact, it's the best idea in the world."

The Office of National Statistics report also shows that Northern Ireland has the lowest regional average of births outside marriage.

That figure currently stands at 31.8%.

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