New divorce law would help thousands after marital breakdowns, Dáil told

Josepha Madigan says 118,000 separated people deserve ‘humanity and compassion’

Constitutional change to ease divorce restrictions and the reduction of the waiting time ‘will help thousands of couples in Ireland who have suffered marital breakdown’, Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan has said. Image: iStock.

Constitutional change to ease divorce restrictions and the reduction of the waiting time ‘will help thousands of couples in Ireland who have suffered marital breakdown’, Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan has said. Image: iStock.

 

Constitutional change to ease divorce restrictions and the reduction of the waiting time “will help thousands of couples in Ireland who have suffered marital breakdown”, Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan has said.

She was speaking as the Dáil passed legislation paving the way for a referendum to change the constitutional provisions on divorce and to recognise foreign divorces. It is planned to reduce the required “living apart” time from four of the previous five years to two of the previous three years.

The Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Divorce) Bill is based on a private member’s Bill Ms Madigan introduced when she was backbencher in 2016 to alter the provisions relating to divorce.

The referendum on divorce will take place on May 24th, the same day as the local and European elections.

Ms Madigan said that in the 2015 Census 118,000 people declared themselves as separated and “we need to treat them with humanity and compassion”.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said that when divorce was first introduced in Ireland 23 years ago it was intended that it would not be available on an easy or casual basis and the intention was to avoid the “quickie divorce” or a divorce culture.

Mr Flanagan, who will now bring the Bill to the Seanad, said those limitations are now perceived to be “unnecessarily restricting and hindering” to couples regularising their situation after marital breakdown.

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said there should be no restrictions on the right to divorce. He said there was a right to marry and there should be a “right to divorce without interference or judgment by State or church”.

Mr Flanagan said he was keen to put something to the people that will achieve their “broad support”.

Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly and Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien raised concerns about couples who were separated but forced to live in the same house for financial reasons.

The Minister said the courts have already recognised the situation where couples are living separately but under one roof.

“That recognition has already been an issue in our courts,” he said.