Sunday 19 May 2019

The Floating Voter: Culture Minister outlines why divorce referendum is needed

Culture Minister, Josepha Madigan. Photo: Collins
Culture Minister, Josepha Madigan. Photo: Collins

Alison Bray

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan says the Divorce Referendum is needed because there are no guarantees in life - or marriage.

"People often don't realise that divorce is one of the most  emotionally-traumatic devastating experiences for people. It takes them years to get over it," she said.

Despite herself being happily married for 17 years, "nobody knows sometimes what's around the corner."

 "This is about showing compassion and humanity to those people who find themselves in situations where their marriage has broken down," she said.

However under the proposed amendment to the Constitution, there must still  be no chance of a reconciliation when a divorce is granted.

 "There has to be irretrievable breakdown of their marriage, so no prospect of reconciliation. That is still going to remain in the Constitution and also proper provision will be made for both spouses and any dependant children. Those comforts, if you like, are still going be there."

 "The time limit, I think is reasonable," she said of the proposed two-year mandatory separation period.

 "It's in line with other jurisdictions. If you think that Italy and Greece and other jurisdictions have no time limits at all. Spain is a year for example. So I think two years is a sufficient amount of time. It's a reasonable amount of time. One year I thought was a bit quick. When I did the research on this, the end of a marriage is a grief for people..."

The former family lawyer said there were fears during the last Divorce Referendum of a subsequent deluge of divorce cases, which never happened.

 "We still have the lowest marital breakdown (rate) in Ireland. It's one in ten."

 "I don't see that happening. I think one of the great things about the Irish people is that we really respect marriage.

This is about respecting marriage. But it's also about helping those people who find themselves in a situation where their marriage hasn't worked out."

The question that will be put to voters will be a simple yes or no answer regarding removing the time limit out of the Constitution and whether they support a uniform approach to the recognition of foreign divorces in Ireland, she confirmed.

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