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1986: Mother of four abused by husband writes letter to Taoiseach outlining need for divorce

“God never intended continual punishment for one mistake.”

A 40-YEAR-OLD mother of four who was abused by her husband wrote a letter to the Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald in 1986 urging him to “think about the divorce situation”, adding “you did promise to”.

The woman described how she was now forced to live in limbo since meeting someone new as she couldn’t get an annulment from the Catholic Church and there was no divorce in Ireland.

I am 40 years old, I married at 18, had four children by 24, and lived through continued physical and mental punishment for some 15 years, until I left seven years ago.

“I went to court and got custody of my children and a maintenance order which was a farce as it could not be enforced.”

Divorce letter one

She had four children aged 16 – 21, two daughters and two sons. Three of them were studying.

The youngest was doing his Leaving Cert, while her two daughters were working as trainees in a sewing factory. One of them was also doing computer studies at a vocational college at night, while her eldest son was unemployed but studying at UCD at night.

She described the financial hardship she was in, detailing how her children contributed to the household.

I am unemployed over two years now … I have a grand total of £100 per week to keep a house and feed five grown people, it is almost impossible.

She went on to describe how she has met someone else, saying how “he’s helped both myself and my family through some very bad times”.

Where can I go from here? We’d like to marry before we’re old age pensioners, but there’s not much hope for us at present.

She described how she had been turned down by the church for an annulment and called on politicians to stand up to the church.

“I don’t advocate marriage today divorce tomorrow, but there must be some kind of compromise. God never intended continual punishment for one mistake.

I sometimes wonder have I any human rights at all, and is it worth the continual struggle with no sign of light, not even a glimmer of hope, and so many people involved in similar circumstances.

“If we had more forward thinking, realistic politicians who were not afraid to govern, for fear of what the church might say, we might have some chance.”

Divorce letter two

Please don’t take me up wrong, I consider myself to be a good christian, I talk to God daily. He has helped me enormously through the years. The problem seems to be with the people on earth, who think or believe they are God.

The letter ended, “God bless you and your family”.

The ban on divorce would be lifted nine years later. The referendum passed by just over 9,000 votes and was a new law was signed in 1996.

A petition against the result was made by Fianna Fáil senator Des Hanafin. It was initially rejected by the High Court and then again on appeal to the Supreme Court.

When the legal objections had concluded, President Mary Robinson signed the bill into law three days later.

Read: ‘Too many women have had their futures robbed’ – Minister urges bystanders to act over domestic violence>

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