Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 1986 (Ireland)

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Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 1986
To remove the constitutional prohibition on divorce
Location Republic of Ireland Ireland
Date 26 June 1986 (1986-06-26)
Results
Votes %
Yes 538,279 36.52%
No 935,843 63.48%
Valid votes 1,474,122 99.43%
Invalid or blank votes 8,522 0.57%
Total votes 1,482,644 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 2,436,836 60.84%

The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 1986 (bill no. 15 of 1986) was a proposed amendment to the Constitution of Ireland to remove the prohibition on divorce. The proposal was rejected in a referendum on 26 June 1986. It was the first of two referendums held in Ireland on the question of divorce; the Fifteenth Amendment in 1995 allowed for divorce under specified conditions.

Background[edit]

The Constitution of Ireland adopted in 1937 included a constitutional ban on divorce. The prohibition reflected the religious values of the document's Catholic drafters, but was also supported by senior members of the Anglican Church of Ireland. In the 1930s, some other countries 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]

Proposed changes to the text[edit]

Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill proposed to delete the following Article 41.3.2º of the Constitution:

2º No law shall be enacted providing for the grant of a dissolution of marriage.

and to substitute that subsection with the following:

2º 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.

Oireachtas debate[edit]

A private member's bill by Labour Party government backbencher Mervyn Taylor to remove the ban on divorce, Tenth Amendment of the Constitution (No. 2) Bill 1985, was defeated in Dáil Éireann on 26 February 1986 by 54 votes to 33.[2]

On 14 May of the same year, Minister for Justice Michael Noonan introduced the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 1986 on behalf of the Fine GaelLabour Party government of Garret FitzGerald.[3] It passed the Dáil on 21 May and the Seanad on 24 May.[4][5]

Campaign[edit]

The amendment was supported by government parties Fine Gael and Labour as well as the Workers' Party. It was opposed by Fianna Fáil, the main opposition party, by the Catholic Church and by conservative groups.

Result[edit]

Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland Bill 1986[6]
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
Results by constituency[6]
Constituency Electorate Turnout (%) Votes Proportion of votes
Yes No Yes No
Carlow–Kilkenny 78,273 61.6% 15,211 32,540 31.9% 68.1%
Cavan–Monaghan 75,717 57.5% 11,882 31,365 27.5% 72.5%
Clare 64,022 58.2% 11,707 25,356 31.6% 68.4%
Cork East 55,522 66.3% 10,794 25,856 29.5% 70.5%
Cork North-Central 63,345 59.7% 11,494 26,166 30.5% 69.5%
Cork North-West 41,319 67.7% 5,829 21,959 21.0% 79.0%
Cork South-Central 74,920 65.2% 18,294 30,388 37.6% 62.4%
Cork South-West 42,171 62.4% 7,045 19,135 26.9% 73.1%
Donegal North-East 44,795 54.0% 6,395 17,642 26.6% 73.4%
Donegal South-West 45,817 52.4% 7,225 16,711 30.2% 69.8%
Dublin Central 69,375 55.9% 15,098 23,482 39.1% 60.9%
Dublin North 46,393 63.1% 14,781 14,420 50.6% 49.4%
Dublin North-Central 56,942 67.5% 16,851 21,470 44.0% 56.0%
Dublin North-East 50,515 66.8% 17,173 16,469 51.0% 49.0%
Dublin North-West 51,989 60.2% 14,849 16,344 47.6% 52.4%
Dublin South 77,144 66.4% 27,768 23,248 54.4% 45.6%
Dublin South-Central 69,864 58.1% 18,314 21,945 45.5% 54.5%
Dublin South-East 67,739 52.8% 19,107 16,464 53.7% 46.3%
Dublin South-West 67,908 60.5% 21,915 19,018 53.5% 46.5%
Dublin West 80,347 59.0% 23,089 24,181 48.8% 51.2%
Dún Laoghaire 76,219 64.9% 28,954 20,299 58.8% 41.2%
Galway East 42,551 60.6% 5,961 19,701 23.2% 76.8%
Galway West 77,286 51.0% 14,428 24,626 36.9% 63.1%
Kerry North 45,480 59.2% 7,210 19,497 27.0% 73.0%
Kerry South 42,413 59.6% 6,034 19,080 24.0% 76.0%
Kildare 74,075 57.6% 19,094 23,354 45.0% 55.0%
Laois–Offaly 74,955 61.5% 12,185 33,540 26.6% 73.4%
Limerick East 67,227 63.2% 14,879 27,440 35.2% 64.8%
Limerick West 43,375 63.5% 6,812 20,530 24.9% 75.1%
Longford–Westmeath 61,072 58.5% 10,355 25,087 29.2% 70.8%
Louth 61,795 64.2% 14,135 25,274 35.9% 64.1%
Mayo East 41,227 57.7% 5,734 17,890 24.3% 75.7%
Mayo West 40,695 55.7% 5,916 16,548 26.3% 73.7%
Meath 73,678 63.4% 14,708 31,655 31.7% 68.3%
Roscommon 41,435 61.6% 5,747 19,597 22.7% 77.3%
Sligo–Leitrim 59,551 60.3% 10,490 25,073 29.5% 70.5%
Tipperary North 41,516 66.2% 6,972 20,323 25.5% 74.5%
Tipperary South 54,887 65.2% 9,649 25,869 27.2% 72.8%
Waterford 59,614 64.4% 12,555 25,415 33.1% 66.9%
Wexford 69,541 63.3% 13,470 30,312 30.8% 69.2%
Wicklow 64,127 60.6% 18,170 20,574 46.9% 53.1%
Total 2,436,836 60.8% 538,279 935,843 36.5% 63.5%

Aftermath[edit]

The Judicial Separation and Family Law Reform Act 1989, enacted three years after the referendum, had been initiated as a private member's bill by Fine Gael backbencher Alan Shatter.[7] This allowed for separation to be recognised by the courts, without the right to remarry.

The Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution Act 1995 was proposed by Mervyn Taylor, now as Minister for Equality and Law Reform, which again proposed to allow for divorce in certain circumstances. It was narrowly passed by referendum on 24 November 1995 with 50.3% of the vote.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown (2 April 1985). Report (PDF). Official publications. Pl.3074. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  2. ^ "Private Members' Business - Tenth Amendment of the Constitution (No. 2) Bill, 1985: Second Stage (Resumed)". Houses of the Oireachtas. 26 February 1986. Retrieved 19 May 2018. 
  3. ^ "Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1986: Order for Second Stage". Houses of the Oireachtas. 14 May 1986. Retrieved 19 May 2018. 
  4. ^ "Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1986: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Final Stages". Houses of the Oireachtas. 21 May 1986. Retrieved 19 May 2018. 
  5. ^ "Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1986: Committee Stage". Houses of the Oireachtas. 24 May 1986. Retrieved 19 May 2018. 
  6. ^ a b "Referendum Results 1937–2015" (PDF). Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. 23 August 2016. p. 40. Retrieved 14 May 2018. 
  7. ^ "Private Members' Business. - Judicial Separation and Family Law Reform Bill, 1987: Second Stage". Houses of the Oireachtas. 2 February 1988. Retrieved 19 May 2018. 

External links[edit]