Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2016

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Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2016
Divorce
Location Ireland
Date24 May 2019 (2019-05-24)
Results
Votes %
Yes 1,384,192 82.07%
No 302,319 17.93%
Valid votes 1,686,511 97.65%
Invalid or blank votes 40,545 2.35%
Total votes 1,727,056 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 3,397,636 50.83%
Source: referendum.ie

The Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016 (bill no. 57 of 2016) is a proposed amendment to the Constitution of Ireland to alter the provisions regulating divorce. The bill proposed to remove the constitutional requirement for a defined period of separation before a Court may grant a dissolution of marriage and to ease restrictions on the recognition of foreign divorces.[1] A referendum was held on this amendment on Friday, 24 May 2019, the same date as the local and European elections.[2] As originally moved, the bill did not propose the total deletion of a waiting period from the Constitution, merely a reduction in the required term.

The proposal was passed in the referendum with 82% of the vote.[3]

Background[edit]

When the Constitution of Ireland was adopted in 1937, divorce was prohibited by Article 41.3.2º. A referendum held in 1986 to remove this prohibition was defeated. The prohibition was removed after a second referendum held in 1995, which was narrowly approved by 50.28% to 49.72%. The recognition of foreign divorce is regulated by Article 41.3.3º, which was unaffected by the 1995 referendum. The text of these two subsections is set out below:[4]

2º A Court designated by law may grant a dissolution of marriage where, but only where, it is satisfied that –
i. at the date of the institution of the proceedings, the spouses have lived apart from one another for a period of, or periods amounting to, at least four years during the previous five years,
ii. there is no reasonable prospect of a reconciliation between the spouses,
iii. such provision as the Court considers proper having regard to the circumstances exists or will be made for the spouses, any children of either or both of them and any other person prescribed by law, and
iv. any further conditions prescribed by law are complied with.

3º No person whose marriage has been dissolved under the civil law of any other State but is a subsisting valid marriage under the law for the time being in force within the jurisdiction of the Government and Parliament established by this Constitution shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage within that jurisdiction during the lifetime of the other party to the marriage so dissolved.

Divorce is regulated in statute law by the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996, passed after the 1995 amendment, which repeats conditions i, ii and iii of Article 41.3.2° verbatim.[5] Limited recognition of foreign divorce is provided by the Domicile and Recognition of Foreign Divorces Act 1986.[6] In 2015 the Supreme Court called for reform of the 1986 act.[7][8]

Legislative history[edit]

The bill was introduced in the 32nd Dáil as the Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Divorce) Bill 2016, a private member's bill by a backbench TD from the Fine Gael party, Josepha Madigan. It proposed to reduce the period of separation from four years to two years by the substitution of the following text for clause 41.3.2º(i) above:[9]

i. at the date of the institution of the proceedings, the spouses have lived separate and apart from one another for a period of, or periods amounting to, at least two years in the previous three years,

The Fine Gael-led government agreed to support the bill, thereby permitting it to go second stage in the Dáil on 6 April 2017.[10] The committee stage was referred to the Select Committee On Justice And Equality, which considered it on 12 July 2017.[11] The Independents 4 Change TD, Clare Daly, wanted the separation period removed from the Constition and dealt with instead in statute law, by amending the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996, as allowed under Article Article 41.3.2°(iv). Josepha Madigan said she was "not sure that the Irish people are completely ready for this provision to be taken out of the Constitution". The Solidarity–People Before Profit TD, Ruth Coppinger, proposed the specification of a maximum separation period that would be set by statute law, or a shorter one, or none. The Fine Gael TD, David Stanton, the Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, said the government would propose substantive amendments to the bill at report stage, which other deputies criticised as rendering the committee stage redundant. The bill passed committee stage unamended.

In November 2017 Madigan was appointed to the government as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Nevertheless, on the Dáil order paper the bill formally remained as a private member's bill rather than a government bill; bills of the former class of proceed more slowly than those of the latter, because less Dáil time is reserved for private members' business.

Government amendments[edit]

In January 2019, the government announced that it would propose amendments to the bill at report stage to eliminate the waiting period and to regulate foreign divorce.[1] In March 2019, the government announced the wording for these amendments. It would propose to delete paragraph (i) of Article 41.3.2º and renumber subsequent paragraphs; and to substitute the following for subsection 3º:[2]

3º Provision may be made by law for the recognition under the law of the State of a dissolution of marriage granted under the civil law of another state.

The government also published the Draft of a General Scheme of the Family Law (Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2019, which it would seek to enact if the referendum is passed. It would amend Section 5(1) of Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 by the substitution of “two years during the previous three years” for “four years during the previous five years”.[12]

Minister Charles Flanagan proposed the amendments to the constitutional bill in the Dáil at report stage on 3 April 2019; they passed unoppposed and the bill completed remaining Dáil stages.[13] Flanagan also said that the issue of changing the law on foreign divorces within the terms of the revised Article 41.3.3º would be referred to the Law Reform Commission.[13] The number of the amendment was also changed from 35 to 38, as amendment numbers 36 and 37 had been enacted since the divorce bill was introduced.[13]

The bill passed all stages in the Seanad on 11 April 2019.[14]

Referendum[edit]

The bill was submitted to referendum on 24 May 2019, the same day as the European Parliament election and local elections. It is the first time a private member's bill has been scheduled for a referendum. The "statement for the information of voters" that appeared on the ballot paper was approved by identical resolutions of the Dáil and Seanad passed immediately after the bill.[15][14]

The Referendum Commission for the amendment referendum was established on 26 February 2019 with High Court judge Tara Burns appointed as chair.[16][17][18] Registration as an "approved body" entitled to campaign for or against the bill was open from 10 April to 25 April.[19]

Campaign[edit]

The referendum was overshadowed by campaigning for the simultaneous local and European elections.[20] The lacklustre campaign was attributed to "Campaign fatigue" by a campaigner on the "No" side, Seamas de Barra, who is treasurer for the "Alliance for the Defence of the Family and Marriage":

"I think it's largely campaign fatigue from the abortion referendum."[21]

One argument in favour wass that couples under the current law often obtain a judicial separation after two years apart and a divorce after four years, thus incurring two sets of legal costs.[22]

Some commentators criticised the bundling into a single amendment bill of two distinct changes (removal of the four-year waiting period and recognition of foreign divorces) thus preventing voters from approving one while rejecting the other. An opinion poll taken on 7–9 May for The Irish Times found 77% of respondents would vote Yes, 8% No, 11% unsure, and 4% would not vote. Among likely voters, 91% favoured Yes.[23]

The amendment was supported by Fine Gael,[10] Fianna Fáil,[10] Sinn Féin,[10] the Labour Party,[24] Solidarity–PBP,[10] and the Green Party,[25] as well as the Law Society of Ireland,[26][22] Union of Students in Ireland,[27] Free Legal Advice Centres,[28] Irish Council for Civil Liberties,[28] and National Women's Council of Ireland.[28]

Organisations that campaigned for a "No" vote included Richard Greene's "Alliance for Defence of Family and Marriage"[29] and Renua’s European candidate in the Midlands North-West constituency, Michael O’Dowd.[30] Journalist Jennifer Bray suggested that opponents felt that "the race is lost and ... mounting a full-scale campaign would be pointless".[31] David Quinn said the Iona Institute is opposed but is not campaigning because "there is very little interest or awareness amongst our supporters on this issue. The stakes aren’t remotely as high as the abortion debate".[31] Denis Nulty, chair of the Council for Marriage & Family of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference, called on voters to "reflect deeply" and said the amendment's objective was "liberalising divorce rather than supporting marriage".[32]

Result[edit]

The citizens of Ireland approved the proposal.

Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016[33]
Choice Votes %
Referendum passed Yes 1,384,192 82.07
No 302,319 17.93
Valid votes 1,686,511 97.65
Invalid or blank votes 40,545 2.35
Total votes 1,727,056 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 3,397,636 50.83
Results by local authority area[33]
Local Authority Electorate Turnout (%) Votes Proportion of votes
Yes No Yes No
Carlow 44,440 48.35% 16,668 4,220 79.80% 20.20%
Cavan 56,466 56.73% 24,108 6,811 77.97% 22.03%
Clare 88,273 56.31% 39,747 8,551 82.30% 17.70%
Cork City 142,627 47.14% 54,200 12,119 81.73% 18.27%
Cork County 260,527 50.53% 104,043 24,246 81.10% 18.90%
Donegal 127,840 55.84% 52,979 15,869 76.95% 23.05%
Dublin City 354,447 39.09% 116,783 20,064 85.34% 14.66%
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown 157,366 49.27% 66,529 10,202 86.70% 13.30%
Fingal 176,889 44.79% 67,745 10,696 86.36% 13.64%
Galway City 49,249 46.62% 18,568 3,922 82.56% 17.44%
Galway County 140,475 54.91% 60,675 13,662 81.62% 18.38%
Kerry 111,638 60.28% 52,052 12,630 80.47% 19.53%
Kildare 145,217 47.41% 57,881 9,904 85.39% 14.61%
Kilkenny 72,603 53.35% 30,384 7,323 80.58% 19.42%
Laois 59,129 53.88% 24,759 6,215 79.93% 20.07%
Leitrim 26,340 64.94% 12,517 3,864 76.41% 23.59%
Limerick City and County 142,960 51.11% 55,862 15,122 78.70% 21.30%
Longford 30,562 63.23% 14,467 4,180 77.58% 22.42%
Louth 91,475 48.67% 36,041 7,723 82.35% 17.65%
Mayo 98,721 62.44% 46,987 12,269 79.29% 20.71%
Meath 141,247 49.09% 56,730 11,423 83.24% 16.76%
Monaghan 47,017 56.97% 19,366 6,441 75.04% 24.96%
Offaly 57,301 54.20% 24,389 5,785 80.83% 19.17%
Roscommon 48,654 61.61% 22,605 6,344 78.09% 21.91%
Sligo 54,263 60.51% 25,550 6,239 80.37% 19.63%
South Dublin 184,645 43.12% 67,852 10,991 86.06% 13.94%
Tipperary 124,856 59.09% 57,073 14,578 79.65% 20.35%
Waterford City and County 82,312 53.45% 34,970 8,033 81.32% 18.68%
Westmeath 67,590 49.72% 25,998 6,727 79.44% 20.56%
Wexford 116,660 52.34% 51,289 8,712 85.48% 14.52%
Wicklow 95,847 56.04% 45,375 7,454 85.89% 14.11%
Total 3,397,636 50.83% 1,384,192 302,391 82.07% 17.93%

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • "Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Divorce) Bill 2016 [as initiated]" (PDF). Oireachtas. 6 July 2016. ISBN 9781446834701.
  • "Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016 [as passed by Dáil Éireann]" (PDF). Oireachtas. 3 April 2019. ISBN 9781446864425.
  • "Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016 [Debates]". Oireachtas.
  • Cousins, Charlotte (27 March 2019). "Divorce in Ireland – Referendum 2019" (PDF). Library and Research Section Notes. Oireachtas. Retrieved 13 April 2019.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Minister Flanagan announces Government approval for a referendum on divorce". Department of Justice and Equality. 29 January 2019. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Minister Flanagan announces publication of text of amendments to be proposed for the referendum on divorce". Department of Justice and Equality. 26 March 2019. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Divorce referendum to reduce required wait period passes by huge margin" The Irish Times, 26 May 2018.
  4. ^ "Constitution of Ireland". Irish Statute Book. December 2019. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 [as amended]". Revised Acts. Law Reform Commission. 1 January 2019. §5(1). Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  6. ^ "Domicile and Recognition of Foreign Divorces Act 1986 [as amended]". Revised Acts. Law Reform Commission. 1 January 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  7. ^ Carolan, Mary (3 February 2015). "Supreme Court calls for law on recognition of foreign divorces". The Irish Times. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  8. ^ H. v H. [2015] IESC S7 (3 February 2015), Supreme Court (Ireland)
  9. ^ "Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Divorce) Bill 2016: First Stage". Dáil Éireann (32nd Dáil) debates. Oireachtas. 6 July 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Divorce) Bill 2016: Second Stage". Dáil Éireann (32nd Dáil) debates. Oireachtas. 6 April 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  11. ^ "Twenty-fifth [sic] Amendment of the Constitution (Divorce) Bill 2016: Committee Stage". Select Committee on Justice and Equality debate. Oireachtas. 12 July 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  12. ^ "Draft of a General Scheme of the Family Law (Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2019" (PDF). Department of Justice and Equality. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  13. ^ a b c "Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Divorce) Bill 2016: Report and Final Stages [Private Members]". Dáil debates. KildareStreet.com. 3 April 2019. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  14. ^ a b "Daily business in Seanad Éireann: 11 April 2019". Seanad Éireann video archive. Houses of the Oireachtas. 13 March 2018. 2h54m. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  15. ^ "Statement for Information of Voters: Motion –". Dáil Éireann (32nd Dáil) debates. Houses of the Oireachtas. 3 April 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  16. ^ McQuinn, Cormac (27 February 2019). "Push to inform public as vote on divorce length set for May". Independent.ie. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  17. ^ "S.I. No. 68/2019 - Referendum Commission (Establishment) Order 2019". Irish Statute Book. 26 February 2019. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  18. ^ "Minister Murphy announces establishment of Referendum Commission". Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. 26 February 2019. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  19. ^ "Approved Bodies - Application process now open". Referendum Commission. 10 April 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  20. ^ Kenny, Aisling (9 May 2019). "A guide to the issues in the Divorce Referendum". RTÉ News. Archived from the original on 10 May 2019.; "Why Hot Press Will Be Voting Yes In The Referendum On Divorce". Hot Press. 23 May 2019. Retrieved 24 May 2019. ... there is a third, hugely important vote also taking place. It has been overshadowed by the European elections in particular ...
  21. ^ Al Jazeera, "Ireland votes in divorce referendum" (25 May 2019), retrieved 24 May 2019
  22. ^ a b Shannon, Geoffrey (April 2019). "Divorce in Ireland: the Case for Reform" (PDF). Law Society of Ireland. p. 7. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  23. ^ Leahy, Pat (11 May 2019). "Voters set to overwhelmingly approve divorce law changes". The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  24. ^ Bacik, Ivana (9 April 2019). "Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016: Second Stage". Seanad Éireann (25th Seanad) debates. Houses of the Oireachtas. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  25. ^ "We're backing a YES vote in the Divorce referendum this Friday May 24th". Green Party. 20 May 2019. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  26. ^ Daly, Adam (2 May 2019). "Solicitors want a Yes vote in divorce referendum". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  27. ^ "Students Voting YES in Divorce Referendum, May 24th". Union of Students in Ireland. 22 May 2019. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  28. ^ a b c Comms (9 May 2019). "Leading national NGOs come together to call for a Yes vote in the upcoming Divorce Referendum – One Family Ireland". onefamily.ie. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  29. ^ Alliance for the Defence of the Family and Marriage
  30. ^ Irish Times - (16 May 2019), "Campaigners see little appetite for No vote in divorce referendum", Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  31. ^ a b Bray, Jennifer (16 May 2019). "Campaigners see little appetite for No vote in divorce referendum". The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  32. ^ Cunningham, Paul (18 May 2019). "Bishops call on electorate to 'reflect deeply'". RTÉ News. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  33. ^ a b "Current Referendum". Retrieved 26 May 2019.

External links[edit]