Irish referendum: 82% of Ireland voters back divorce law changes

'It’s a real groundswell of support for all those suffering from marital breakdown,' says culture minister

Peter Stubley,Rebecca Black
Sunday 26 May 2019 14:23 BST
More than 82 per cent voted Yes in Ireland's divorce referendum
More than 82 per cent voted Yes in Ireland's divorce referendum

Ireland has overwhelmingly backed proposals to make it easier for married couples to divorce.

More than 82 per cent of people voted in a referendum to reduce the minimum separation period from four years to two years.

Just 17 per cent of the 1.7 million voters opposed liberalising the nation’s divorce laws.

The result was confirmed in the early hours of Sunday morning at Dublin Castle.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is now set to bring forward a Bill to amend Section 5 of the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996.

However, he said “core protections for marriage” will remain in the constitution.

“The Government wants to ensure that the process for obtaining a divorce is fair, dignified and humane, and allows both parties to move forward with their lives within a reasonable timeframe,” he said.

“It is therefore my intention to reduce the living apart period to a minimum of two out of the preceding three years and to do so by way of ordinary legislation, which I will bring forward as soon as possible.”

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

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

Josepha Madigan, the Irish Culture Minister who proposed a liberalisation of the law in a private member’s bill in 2016, thanked those who voted in the referendum.

“I think it’s an emphatic, unequivocal result, and, even though we have a very low marital breakdown in Ireland, it just demonstrates the amount of people who stand in solidarity with them,” she said.

“It’s a real groundswell of support and compassion for all those people suffering from marital breakdown and I really want to thank the Irish people for coming out and supporting them.”

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Those backing a “No” vote had 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.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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