Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland votes to liberalise divorce laws

Ballot boxes are opened and counting begins in the Local and European Elections and divorce referendum at the RDS in Dublin. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Ballot boxes are opened and counting begins in the Local and European Elections and divorce referendum at the RDS in Dublin. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire

By Maeve Sheehan and Denise Calnan

The referendum to ease restrictions on divorce in the Republic of Ireland has passed, with 82.1% overall voting 'Yes' and 17.9pc overall voting 'No'.

The final results came in from Galway City in the early hours of Sunday morning.

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

The referendum proposed 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 Irish Government can now 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.

Irish Independent

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