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Referendum on divorce could be delayed, warns Taoiseach

It was due to be held in May, but Varadkar said the woman in the home referendum might take its place.

Image: PA Archive/PA Images

THE REFERENDUM ON divorce may be delayed, according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

The referendum to ease the constitutional restrictions on divorce is due to be held this year on the same day as the local and European elections in May.

However, Varadkar has indicated a referendum on women in the home may substitute the divorce referendum.

The reference to women in the home in the Constitution was due to be dealt with by referendum last October on the same day as the presidential elections. However, due to disagreement over the proposed wording, and implications it might have to carers in the home, it was delayed. 

The matter was referred to a Joint Oireachtas Committee, which has now agreed on a proposed referendum question wording. 

Substituting one referendum for another 

“If that wording is acceptable to the Attorney General – if he’s able to say to us that it means what it says it means; you know you always have to be very careful about what you write into the Constitution – we may substitute that for the referendum on divorce instead,” said Varadkar.

He added:

Because it is my general view that if you have political consensus around a referendum, you have a much better chance of that passing – it’s a little-known fact that there is no referendum in Ireland that has passed in 40 years, that didn’t have the support or tacit support of the two major parties – so that’s something you always need to bear in mind, [and] so we may make that switch.

In terms referendums this year, the Taoiseach said the plan at the moment is to have plebiscites in Cork, Limerick and Galway on whether they’d like to have a directly elected executive mayor or not.

The referendum on divorce and also on extending the right to vote in presidential elections to Irish citizens living outside of the State are also on the agenda, with Varadkar stating there will be a second set of referendums later in the year.

Voting rights to Irish citizens abroad

The Taoiseach said he is determined to go ahead with the referendum to extend the right to vote to Irish citizens outside of Ireland in presidential elections.

“It means that when we elect the next president in seven years’ time, the presidency will be a president for the whole Irish nation, for all Irish citizens, living within the State but also those who live in Northern Ireland and those who live in other parts of the world,” he said. 

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