Friday 27 April 2018

Dire divorce predictions over 1995 vote 'haven't come true'

Judge Catherine McGuinness
Judge Catherine McGuinness

Gordon Deegan

The dire predictions that were floated by the opponents of divorce in the 1995 referendum have not been borne out.

That is according to former Supreme Court justice, Ms Justice Catherine McGuinness who told the Merriman Summer School last night "that the development of divorce law in the 1990s has produced a more equal situation between spouses".

Speaking at the opening of the summer school in Glór, Ennis, Ms Justice McGuinness said that, following the introduction of divorce here, "the heavens have not fallen, Ireland has a relatively low divorce rate, and Irish husbands by and large have not deserted their wives to take off with painted floozies".

She said: "Most divorce cases before the Irish courts are not about glamorous or shocking depravity but about the difficult task of dividing limited resources so as to provide for separating spouses and their children."

The theme of the Summer School this year is 'Love and Marriage (Revisited)' and Ms Justice McGuinness said this year marks 20 years since the 1995 referendum on divorce. She said she has more memories of the earlier divorce referendum that was rejected in 1986.

"There was a feeling of rejection. For myself, I remember that shortly after the defeat of that first referendum I was at the hurling final in Croke Park. Before the match I found that I could not join in singing the national anthem, so strongly did I feel that Ireland simply did not want people who thought as I did. Of course, like the rest of us, I got up, shook myself, and joined the fight again."

Tony Fahey, professor of social policy at UCD, told the school it has been something of a surprise quite how low the uptake in divorce has been in Ireland since its introduction.


"By 2007, 10 years after the advent of divorce, the divorce rate in Ireland had risen to match that of Italy - then the lowest in Europe - but had not broken through the 1 per 1,000 threshold. More surprisingly, it then turned downwards and now lies at 0.6 divorces per 1,000 population. That rate would have been low for most countries even in the 1950s."

He pointed out: "As in Italy, it is likely that, taking separation as well as divorce into account, the total rate of marital breakdown in Ireland is of the order of double the divorce rate, undoubtedly well over the 1 per 1,000 threshold."

Prof Fahey said Irish people are cautious about marriage. "They are slow to enter a first marriage and if they part company with their first spouse, they are even more cautious about making a second attempt."

Irish Independent

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