Couple rejects the English solution to an Irish problem

Church and state: Campaign to reform law on marriage falters as opposition grows in run-up to referendum
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David Herman, a former electrical engineer with the Irish State Electricity Supply Board, married in 1967 at the age of 28. The marriage broke up amid "terrible rows" after 10 years, writes Alan Murdoch.

Several years later he formed a relationship with his new partner, Maureen, a former civil servant. They have lived together since 1982 but although a judicial separation was agreed a year after the split with his ex-wife, they have been unable to marry because of divorce ban.

Mr Herman, 56, has two children from his marriage, a son of 24 and a daughter of 21, who were brought up by their mother, to whom he paid maintenance payments.

He has no interest in pursuing a foreign divorce and says this would be impractical since he would have to establish domicile in another jurisdiction. "A foreign divorce is extremely doubtful [legally] here. Anyway I would prefer to have an Irish solution rather than trekking off to England. [Ireland] is a great country for moving our problems elsewhere.

"I would also like to see the state facing up to the church and producing laws which do not, or should not, necessarily, please the church." Though born a Catholic, he dismisses the idea of a church annulment, in which the marriage is ended in the eyes of the church, as "an intellectual cop-out". He rejects claims that there is any serious distinction between those given church annulments and the large mass of separated couples who had unhappy marriages.

His own experience has left him unconvinced that continuing a failed marriage is better for children than divorce. Mr Herman, who took early retirement in 1989 to write books on hill-walking, accepts break-ups are difficult for children.

He says his separation, when the children were five and three, "affected them very badly," but believes that in the longer term an end to conflict gave them a far less troubled upbringing.