Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1986 (Ireland)

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The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1986 was a proposal to amend the Constitution of Ireland to remove the prohibition on divorce. The proposal was rejected in the 1986 referendum.

Proposed changes to the text[edit]

The subject matter of the referendum was described as follows:

  • The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1986, proposes –
to delete subsection 2° of Article 41.3 of the Constitution, which states that no law shall be enacted providing for the grant of a dissolution of marriage, and to substitute the subsection here following:
2° Where, and only where, such court established under this Constitution as may be prescribed by law is satisfied that:
i. a marriage has failed,
ii. the failure has continued for a period of, or periods amounting to, at least five years,
iii. there is no reasonable possibility of reconciliation between the parties to the marriage, and
iv. any other condition prescribed by law has been complied with,
the court may in accordance with law grant a dissolution of the marriage provided that the court is satisfied that adequate and proper provision having regard to the circumstances will be made for any dependent spouse and for any child of or any child who is dependent on either spouse.


In 1986 an absolute ban on divorce had been present in the constitution since its adoption in 1937. The prohibition reflected the religious values of the document's Roman Catholic drafters, but was also supported by senior members of the Anglican Church of Ireland. In the 1930s some other nations had similar bans, such as Italy, which would not repeal its ban until the 1970s. By the 1980s, however, many saw the prohibition on divorce as illiberal or as discriminating against those who did not share the Christian attitude to divorce. An Oireachtas Joint Committee on Marital Breakdown was established in 1983, which reported in 1985. It made recommendations on such matters as mediation, judicial separation, child custody, and barring orders; regarding divorce, it recommended that a referendum be held but did not agree on a yes vote.[1]

In 1986, a first attempt to remove the ban on divorce was made by the Fine GaelLabour Party coalition government of Garret FitzGerald. The proposal was put to a referendum on 26 June 1986 but was rejected. The proposal was opposed by Fianna Fáil (the main opposition party), by the Roman Catholic Church and by conservative groups. The Tenth Amendment, 1986 was rejected by 935,843 (63.5%) against to 538,279 (36.5%) in favour.

The ban on divorce was eventually lifted by the Fifteenth Amendment in 1996.


Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland Bill, 1986[2]
Choice Votes  %
Referendum failed No 935,843 63.48
Yes 538,279 36.52
Valid votes 1,474,122 99.43
Invalid or blank votes 8,522 0.57
Total votes 1,482,644 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 2,436,836 60.84

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown (2 April 1985). Report (PDF). Official publications. Pl.3074. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  2. ^ "Referendum Results" (PDF). Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 

External links[edit]