Belfast Telegraph

Yes vote will lead to more compassionate divorce law – Fine Gael

Couples currently have to prove to a court that they have been separated for a long period before they can secure a divorce.

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan (Fine Gael/PA)
Culture Minister Josepha Madigan and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan (Fine Gael/PA)

A Yes vote in Ireland’s divorce referendum will pave the way for a more compassionate law, Fine Gael ministers have said.

Launching the party’s campaign ahead of the vote on May 24, Charlie Flanagan and Josepha Madigan said there was a need to reduce the emotional and financial distress experienced by separating Irish couples.

Couples currently have to prove to a court that they have been separated for a long period – four of the previous five years – before they can secure a divorce.

Voters are being asked to amend the state’s constitution to hand politicians the power to set the length of the “pause period”.

If handed the responsibility, the Fine Gael-led government wants to halve the period from four years to two.

Couples can currently secure a judicial separation in a shorter timeframe, but they must the proceed to a second legal stage to obtain a formal court-approved divorce.

Those advocating a No vote have warned against the prospect of “quickie divorces”, expressing concern about giving politicians a free hand to potentially reduce the waiting time even further in the future.

The current four-year wait period before someone can even apply for a divorce exacts an enormous toll on many people who are left unable to move on with their lives Josepha Madigan, Fine Gael

Lisa Hughes, a Dublin woman who has gone through the two-stage separation and divorce process, addressed the Fine Gael event.

“I know from personal experience that the current requirement for couples to be separated for four out of the last five years adds considerably to the emotional and financial pain and stress on those involved,” she said.

“No-one expects their relationship to break down and their marriage to come to an end but it does happen. In my case, the requirement to secure a judicial separation in advance of the formal divorce added significantly to the costs involved.

“Four years is too long to live in legal and day-to-day limbo if your marriage has broken down irretrievably. For these reasons I’m urging people to vote Yes on Friday 24.”

Minister Madigan, Fine Gael’s director of elections for the referendum, told the event in Dublin: “The current four-year wait period before someone can even apply for a divorce exacts an enormous toll on many people who are left unable to move on with their lives. They are often caught in a long drawn-out court process that only serves to increase acrimony in the long run.

“Family relationships become further strained, often beyond repair. This surely cannot be acceptable in modern Ireland. The law today traps couples in irretrievable failed relationships. Rather than supporting families, the current lengthy separation period requirement can damage them.”

Justice and Equality Minister Mr Flanagan added: “Ireland has a very low divorce rate by international standards and that is very positive news. However, sadly in every part of Ireland, people’s marriages do break down irreparably and we want to help couples who find themselves in this sad situation.

“Our proposal involves retaining important constitutional protections: only a court may grant a divorce and the judge must be satisfied there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation and proper provision has been made for children and dependants.”

PA

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