I am delighted that after many months and years of campaigning, the Government has agreed with my proposal to hold a referendum to reduce the waiting period before a divorce can be granted in Ireland. This has been an issue on which I have campaigned since my election to the Dáil, having introduced an initial Private Members’ Bill on this topic in 2016.
This referendum will likely take place in May, on the same date as the Local and European Elections.
The referendum will ask voters to remove entirely the current constitutional clause requiring a mandatory four-year period of separation out of the previous five years prior to obtaining a divorce. This waiting period and necessary protections will then be decided by the Oireachtas and set out in legislation.
I sincerely hope that the people of Ireland support this progressive proposal.
Our current law makes divorce as difficult as possible. The consequence of this is not, as some claim, the protection of the family unit; rather it leads to the damaging of families.
It also increases the financial and emotional costs for those who apply for a divorce as they as are forced to wait for a minimum of four years before they can fully move on.
Ireland currently has one of the longest waiting times in Europe in order to obtain a divorce where there is mutual consent between both parties.
Divorce is never something that is considered lightly. The 2016 Census showed 283,802 people in Ireland are divorced, separated, or remarried. Over 103,000 people have gone through a divorce since 1997. In addition, some 118,000 individuals described themselves as separated in the 2016 Census. How is it fair to inflict a draconian 48-month waiting time-period on these thousands of people?
Now that the intention to hold the referendum is set out, it is important that as many people as possible engage in support of the proposal. This means talking to friends and family, being active in the social media debate, and making sure that people understand the reasons why this change deserves support.
Over the next few weeks and months, I will be engaging in the campaign as much as I can. I would like to thank you very much for your support so far, and I encourage you to get involved in the campaign. I can keep you updated on this as it progresses.