Thursday 17 October 2019

Vote shows support for easing of divorce laws

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Culture Minister Josepha Madigan. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Changes to Ireland's restrictive divorce laws are expected to be passed by an overwhelming majority.

The referendum on divorce was put to voters along with the local and European elections on Friday.

An exit poll for RTE and TG4 predicted that 87pc have voted in favour of the referendum with 12pc voting against, and 1pc refusing to answer or saying they don't know. The margin of error is 3pc.

Results from the constituencies counted yesterday are in line with the exit poll.

The referendum proposes reducing the length of time before a couple can divorce from four years to two and also recognises foreign divorces.

The divorce regime had not changed in more than 20 years when the ban was first lifted.

The Minister for Culture, Josepha Madigan, said: "I think it's a really strong endorsement from the Irish people for the referendum and it demonstrates their kindness and their understanding of the situation people find themselves in when they are separating or divorcing. I think there's a deep well of kindness in the Irish people.

"It wasn't about rocking the system. It was about humanising it. I think the people have shown they have a solidarity with people going through marital breakdown, through separation and divorce."

Ms Madigan proposed cutting waiting times for divorce, steering a private members bill through the Dail soon after she got elected which culminated in Friday's referendum. She said the referendum was proof that one person can make a difference.

The result means the Government can introduce legislation that will allow couples to divorce sooner rather than later.

Currently, a couple must live apart for four out of the previous five years in order to apply for a divorce.

The explicit constitutional prohibition on a person remarrying in the State who has obtained a foreign divorce that is not recognised under Irish law will be removed. It will still be prohibited for a person to remarry in Ireland unless their foreign divorce is recognised under Irish law.

The Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, has said that he intends to propose laws to make the rules regarding foreign divorces more consistent.

Supporters of the referendum said parting couples could be stuck in limbo while waiting to finalise their separation in divorce, a period in which could increase hostility.

Critics of the proposal warned that the changes could ultimately lead to "quickie divorce" in Ireland.

Sunday Independent

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