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FactCheck: No, 'child marriages' will not be recognised in Ireland following the divorce referendum

A claim circulating on social media said that the divorce referendum could mean child brides are recognised in Ireland.

ON FRIDAY, IRELAND voted overwhelmingly in favour of changing two references to divorce in the Constitution. One related to the length of time couples have to wait to get a divorce, while the other related to the recognition of foreign divorces in Ireland. 

Before the campaign, claims had been circulating online that the referendum could lead to Ireland recognising “child marriages”,  “child brides” and “polygamy”. 

But is it true? Will child marriages now be accepted in Ireland? Spoiler alert: they won’t. 

The claim

On 22 May, right-wing Facebook page Grand Torino shared a photo with the caption: 

Remember the elections are a big distraction the real prize is in the fine print, the subversion of our constitution is not being properly discussed , will you accept child brides from another culture or polygamy too. Two years for divorce is fair enough but no to normalising aberrations.

The photo that accompanied the text, shown below, stated: “One thing worth noting with this referendum – we are actually being asked to Vote on 2 things 1: To reduce the divorce time to 2 years and 2: for Ireland to recognise and accept “Foreign Marriages” – which correct me if i am wrong is basically saying that we accept “child Marriages” and here’s the clincher – You have to vote yes or no to both or no to both.”

The screengrab on the Grand Torino page came from a public Facebook group called Ireland Is Not For Sale, which in turn had copied the text from a post on a Facebook page called Irish Daily.

The evidence

In Friday’s vote, people were asked to approve changes to both Article 41.3.2 and Article 41.3.3 of the constitution.  The former relates to the length of time a couple must live apart before being able to apply for a divorce – currently four out of the previous five years. It is the changes to the latter article that prompted these online claims. 

At present, Article 41.3.3 states:

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.

This provision prevents people who have obtained a foreign divorce, not recognised by Irish law, from remarrying as long as the other person in the marriage is alive. 

By voting yes in the referendum, people approved the replacement of this section with the following wording: “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.”

This will now allow the Oireachtas to legislate for the recognition of foreign divorces. Future legalisation brought forward will be guided by the Law Reform Commission, which releases public reports. It will still be illegal for a person to remarry in Ireland if their foreign divorce isn’t recognised under Irish law. 

The amendment set to be introduced into the Constitution relates only to the dissolution of marriages through divorce. It doesn’t relate to marriages

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said: “The amendments to Article 41.3 of the Constitution that have been put to the people in [the] referendum will not affect the law on recognition of marriages.”

This means that any law related to marriage is unaffected by the yes vote in the referendum. 

Verdict

The referendum will not lead to child marriages, child brides or polygamy being recognised under Irish law. 

The referendum was on the regulation of divorce – specifically in allowing the Oireachtas to legislate to recognise foreign divorces. 

It was nothing to do with recognising foreign marriages, only foreign divorces. 

As a result, we rate the claim that the referendum on divorce could lead to child marriages being recognised in Ireland: NONSENSE

As per our verdict guide, this means: The claim is wildly inaccurate, logically impossible, and/or ridiculous. 

With thanks to Storyful for help with this article 

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.

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