Divorce Referendum (2019): Why I’m Voting “Yes”

Are you kidding me?

Of course I am voting “Yes” on this. Even if I had zero experience or connection to somebody who has, or is currently going through, divorce proceedings in this country I would still be voting “Yes” on this.

Let’s be clear about this four year requirement: it was a sop to conservative Ireland, not unlike the 12 week issue in the more recent Abortion referendum, only this was enshrined in the actual text to be changed. Most of the government at the time would not have wanted to campaign for divorce on demand, and so we got this restrictive nonsense, whereby those who want out of a marriage need to be separated for four years before getting a divorce legally. Even at the time people did try and do exactly that is being proposed now – changing the text of the constitution so the Oireachtas can just legislate – but were voted down.

And maybe it was important they were, because the amendment we are voting on now probably would not have passed in 1995. Regardless, 24 years have gone by, times have changed, and the people of Ireland have demonstrated, numerous times over the past several years, that enough is enough with this stuff.

I’m not adverse to a “cooling off” period when people have separated and are considering their options. Some relationships can be repaired in such circumstances, and its important that people, especially when families are involved, do not rush into the decision to divorce. But I’m talking a few months if I was making the legislation, though the current government is indicating the plan is to go to two years. Though longer then I’d like, that’s still better than four and, crucially, can be changed again in future by legislators, without the need for what would be a fourth referendum on the topic.

That’s the analytical reasons behind my preferences. Speaking more personally, I have friends, and friends of friends, who have separated from the partners, sometimes in very difficult circumstances, where the chance of reconciliation was essentially nil. These people already need to go through the legal slog of arranging separation of assets and property, custody schedules for children, alimony payments, and everything else such a traumatic experience involved. All the while, they remain legally bound for four years to the person they are seeking to remove themselves from which, in the case of one of the situations mentioned above, is an unnecessary indignity. They deserve the chance to move on in less time than four years. This amendment, and the promised legislation, will allow them the chance to do that in a more constructive way.

And that’s just for them. For those in abusive relationships, who need to sever that bond as a matter of physical and mental safety, this amendment will be a help. Not as much of a help as it should be mind you, but a help nonetheless.

So, it will be a “Yes” from me, and I imagine it will be an easy enough win for “Yes”, barring some serious voter apathy. Even the usual “No” crowd seem unenthusiastic about campaigning against this amendment, as if it is a lost cause already. It may well be. For the betterment of divorce law, and for the easing of the burden on those people unfortunate enough to have to go through the process, please vote “Yes” tomorrow.

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