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Government announces wording of amendments for the divorce referendum

Through primary legislation the government would introduce, you would have to live apart for two years before getting a divorce.

Image: Shutterstock/wk1003mike

Updated Mar 26th 2019, 8:17 PM

THE WORDING OF the proposed amendments for the divorce referendum has been announced by government.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan today announced the wording for the amendments to the constitutional provisions on divorce that will be voted on by the Irish electorate in May. 

At a Cabinet meeting today, ministers today discussed the amendments to be proposed in the referendum – which is due to take place on the same day as the local and European elections on 24 May.

If the referendum is passed, the government would introduce primary legislation on the time period before you can get a divorce, rather than having it in the Constitution which must be put to a public vote when changes are proposed.

Under the current system, married couples need to have lived apart for at least four years during the previous five years.

The new proposals would see that reduced to just two years, with the Oireachtas providing the legislation for this.

“This important referendum will allow the people of Ireland to have their say on an issue that unfortunately affects people across the country,” Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said today.

“The irreconcilable breakdown of a marriage causes immense sadness and stress for all concerned.

The Government wishes 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.  

 Other aspect

Under the proposals, other aspects of divorce – such as only a court may grant a divorce, that there is no prospect of reconciliation, and that there will be proper provision for spouses and children – will continue as part of the Constitution. 

The other aspect of the Constitution that will change if the referendum is passed relates to the recognition of foreign divorces.

Cabinet first approved the holding of the referendum in December of last year. 

Subject to the approval of Oireachtas, the proposed amendments will be:

(a) to delete the following paragraph from Article 41.3.2° of the Constitution:“i) at the date of the institution of the proceedings, the spouses have lived apart from one another for a period of, or periods amounting to, at least four years during the previous five years,”, and

(b) to delete the following subsection from Article 41.3 of the Constitution:

“3° No person whose marriage has been dissolved under the civil law of any other State but is a subsisting valid marriage under the law for the time being in force within the jurisdiction of the Government and Parliament established by this Constitution shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage within that jurisdiction during the lifetime of the other party to the marriage so dissolved.”,

and to substitute that subsection with the following:

“3º Provision may be made by law for the recognition under the law of the State of a dissolution of marriage granted under the civil law of another state.”

With reporting from Christina Finn and Cormac Fitzgerald

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Sean Murray

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