Bill rejection deals blow to Irish poll on divorce

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE Irish government's plans for a divorce referendum this year were back on the drawing board yesterday after the Supreme Court rejected the Bill designed to pave its introduction, writes Alan Murdoch.

The Matrimonial Homes Bill had been put forward to eliminate fears about loss of property rights which Catholic conservatives exploited in defeating the last attempt to introduce divorce, in 1986.

The Fianna Fail-Labour coalition government had hoped that by addressing these concerns it could build a secure majority in favour of divorce in a subsequent referendum.

Yesterday's ruling followed the conclusion of the President, Mary Robinson, that the Bill could face legal obstacles. She had referred it to the Supreme Court for a legal review.

The Bill proposed to divide ownership of the home and belongings equally after a marital breakdown. It also proposed that the home and contents would be jointly owned, making one partner the sole owner if the other died.

The court yesterday ruled that automatic joint ownership could conflict with 'joint and freely made' decisions already made by the spouses. The Bill involved a 'disproportionate intervention by the state into the authority of the family'.