Dublin paves way for divorce vote

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The Independent Online


Ireland's long-delayed second divorce referendum is almost certain to take place on 23 November. Government sources yesterday confirmed that the Dail is to be recalled two weeks early on 20 September to pass essential legislation paving the way for the vote.

Plans to hold two other referendums on the same day are being shelved, indicating the government recognises it has a major battle on his hands.

Last weekend, a senior cleric warned that a right-wing backlash could be provoked if the ruling coalition went ahead with liberalising social laws. Bishop Brendan Comiskey cited a US private army, the Michigan militia, as the kind of reaction caused if a society failed to allow full debate and drove dissidents underground.

His argument was angrily rejected by a government minister, Joan Burton, who insisted the referendum offered the most democratic way forward.

The Church attack was reinforced by another bishop who said divorced people smoked and drank more than married counterparts and were more likely to be involved in car accidents. The Most Rev Dermot Clifford, Archbishop of Cashel, also said divorced men were more likely to commit suicide, and argued government pre-referendum publicity should say "Divorce seriously damages your health."

The Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Rev Desmond Connell, warned that liberal social laws threatened to undermine both moral tradition and the family.

The referendum was brought forward to avoid a moral battle being in progress when the US President, Bill Clinton, visits Ireland in early December.