Journal Article

Divorce in Ireland: The Fear, the Floodgates and the Reality

Jenny Burley and Francis Regan

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 16, issue 2, pages 202-222
Published in print August 2002 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online August 2002 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI:
Divorce in Ireland: The Fear, the Floodgates and the Reality

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The Irish story of family law reform in the post‐Second World War era is quite different from the experience of other countries. One of the main reasons why the story is different is that from 1937 divorce was banned under the Irish Constitution. Divorce law reform therefore required a referendum to change the constitution. Even though there were thousands of separated people in Ireland in the early 1980s, the proposal to introduce divorce was vociferously opposed in referenda in 1986 and 1995. The opposition to constitutional change was fuelled by anti‐divorce campaigns which used fear tactics related to money, children, property and inheritance to argue that divorce would tear apart the fabric of Irish society. The campaigns also claimed that divorce would open the floodgates to marriage breakdown. The availability of divorce in Ireland since 1997 has not, however, borne out the dire predictions of the anti‐divorce campaigners. This article briefly outlines the historical background to the introduction of divorce in Ireland and examines the consequences of the reform. It demonstrates that the divorce and family breakdown floodgates have not been opened and argues that a complex range of factors must be taken into account in order to explain why, at least in the first five years, relatively few Irish people applied for divorce.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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