- 23 May 19
Opinion polls have been suggesting a win for ‘Yes’ in the referendum being held on Friday 24 May, on provisions for divorce in the constitution of Ireland. But nothing should be taken for granted. Which is why Hot Press says: use your vote – and vote 'Yes' in the Referendum on Divorce Law.
People go to the polls tomorrow to vote in the elections to the European Parliament. The local elections are also taking place, giving us all an opportunity to have an input into how local councils will operate over the next few years.
But there is a third, hugely important vote also taking place. It has been overshadowed by the European elections in particular – which is a pity. Because what we are being offered is a crucial opportunity to further modernise Ireland’s approach to issues concerning personal freedom, relationships, family and – by extension – sexuality.
Under the provisions enshrined in the Constitution when divorce was first permitted here, a four-year wait is required before a separated couple can divorce. In fact what the constitutional provision says is that couple have to be living separately for four out of the previous five years before divorce is permitted.
At the time of the original divorce referendum, Hot Press argued that this ‘cooling-off' period was too long and would cause undue hardship for both couples and children. But it was all that was on offer and so we supported a ‘Yes’ vote.
Our contention back then has been proven right. Four years is indeed far too long, dragging out as it does what can be a very difficult, emotionally draining process for the separated couple.
If there are children involved, this can create huge difficulties for them. Many divorces are relatively free of acrimony. But where there is acrimony, the children are often used as pawns. More than anything else, children caught up in a separation or a divorce want the smoothest possible transition to whatever the new normality is going to be.
There are exceptions, particularly if violent behaviour is involved on either parent’s part, but in general, what children prefer is for both parents to have access. They want to spend time with their mother and with their father.
To have a four year delay before anything can be done to get the formalities of divorce sorted often leads to a situation where one parent is excluded, and where the children are hereby made to suffer unduly.
The likelihood that a long separation period might lead to reconciliation is slim to non-existent. And, besides, any potential reconciliation may in fact be rendered more likely to happen if the civilities of a divorce are agreed on. People have been known to re-marry after being divorced.
Either way, the most important thing is that the best possible set of circumstances should be created for the children. That is much more likely to happen quickly, and effectively, if the separated couple can divorce after two years.
And of course, this will also help both parties to get on with the rest of their lives, sooner rather than later. Which in the end is what they have to do anyway.
For all of these reasons, and more, we will be voting ‘Yes’ in relation to the changes proposed in the Referendum on Divorce Law.
One final word: the impression has been created by Opinion Polls that the proposed changes will be passed by a significant majority. However, there is never any room for complacency.
We urge all Hot Press readers to use their votes tomorrow, and to use them well.
The arithmetic counts. The anti-happiness league are still out there. They will be voting ’No’ in the referendum, as well as putting their weight behind a bunch of fascist-leaning candidates in the European and local elections.
The greater the margins by which they can be defeated, the better for Ireland – and for Irish citizens. See you at the polling stations!