Carlow clocks up highest divorce rate in Ireland

Analysis for 2000-2017 reveals county comes out top from national total of almost 4,000

Carlow has the highest divorce rate in Ireland, having overtaken Dublin in 2015, an analysis of divorce figures across the country in the years 2000-2017 by The Irish Times has shown.

There were 71 applications for divorce in Carlow in 2017 out of a national total of 3,964. This is a figure that put the county top of the national divorce league table for the third year running.

Following its introduction in 1997, the number of divorce applications rose sharply in the early years but levelled off at about 4,000 annually in the early 2000s. However, the numbers declined during the years of economic crisis before climbing to the 4,000 mark again by 2014. The growth in divorce applications peaked in 2015 and then declined slightly in 2016 and 2017.

There were about 22,000 marriages in 2017 and Ireland’s rate of divorce is low by European standards.


The county with the lowest divorce rate in 2017 was Leitrim, while Kilkenny, Monaghan, Cavan, Meath and Westmeath have all featured in the lowest spot since 2000. By contrast, Dublin had the highest rate from 2010 to 2015.

What are voters being asked?

On Friday voters will be asked to abolish the constitutional requirement for a couple to be living apart for four out of the previous five years before a divorce can be granted, paving the way for the Oireachtas to legislate for a two-year period.

Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan, who is leading the Fine Gael campaign to change the Constitution, urged people to support the change. The four-year rule, she said, had achieved nothing to support people undergoing marital breakdown. “A two-year rule would be much more reasonable,” she added.

But Alliance for the defence of the Family and Marriage said relaxing the constitutional rules on divorce would increase the rate of dissolution.

Over the weekend, Catholic bishops said the referendum’s objective “is not to support marriage, rather to liberalise divorce” and they urged people to “reflect deeply” on the need to support marriage.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Nora-Ide McAuliffe

Nora-Ide McAuliffe

Nora-Ide McAuliffe is an Audience Editor with The Irish Times