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Image / Editorial

The results of the divorce referendum ‘demonstrate kindness’


By Jennifer McShane
26th May 2019
The results of the divorce referendum ‘demonstrate kindness’

The constitutional referendum on divorce has been passed by an overwhelming majority at just over 82%, one of the largest margins of victory in a referendum since the vote on the Belfast Agreement in 1998. Just 17.9% voted against.

The Irish public was asked to vote on two changes — one relating to how long a couple must live apart before getting a divorce, and the other on how the Irish State recognises foreign divorces. A couple will now only have to live apart two years on the basis of the new vote.

How many voted? 

Turnout came to 50.89% across the 31 constituencies with the final tally announced on Sunday morning. There were 1,384,192 ballots cast in favour of the proposal, with 302,319 cast against.

The strongest No vote came in Monaghan, where just under one-quarter of voters rejected the proposal. The referendum enjoyed the strongest support in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, where 86.7% of voters said Yes to the proposal. This was followed by Fingal which was on 86.4%.

Related: The divorce referendum: everything you need to know

What happens now?

Firstly, section two, part (i) will be removed from Article 41.3 of the Constitution, which refers to divorce altogether. This means the law will no longer require a person seeking a divorce to have lived apart from their partner for at least four out of the last five years, but two.

A change in part (iii) of the constitution also means the power the Oireachtas has to make laws recognising foreign divorces will be laid out explicitly in the Consitution. It will still be prohibited for a person to remarry in Ireland if their foreign divorce is not recognised under Irish law, but if their foreign divorce is valid, they will be able to remarry.

Minster for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan said the vote reflected the kindness of the Irish people and voters felt compassion had to be shown to those going through marital breakdown and that the four-year wait was too long.

“This was not about rocking the system, it was about humanising the system,” she said.

Main photograph: Pexels