17 Jan:
Ireland’s First Divorce

Heavily influenced by the Church, Article 43 of the Irish Constitution forbade divorce – a law that stood until 17th January, 1997, when a Judge granted a terminally ill husband the right to divorce the woman from whom he’d already separated so that he could marry his current partner. 

This followed a contentious referendum in 1995, which had only narrowly favoured the legalisation of divorce. The campaign was heated, with dramatic predictions, divisive billboards, and fears of family breakdowns; but the decision ultimately paved the way for subsequent social reforms in the country, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 and the approval of abortion in 2018.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly contextualise this pivotal moment within the Northern Ireland peace process; revisit some of the ripe language employed in the impassioned referendum debates; and share divorce lawyers’ anecdotes of quirky reasons for divorce filings in the nation…

Further Reading:

• ‘Ireland grants a divorce for the first time in the country’s history’: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ireland-grants-first-divorce-history-catholic-church

• ‘Before Date Of New Law, Ireland Grants First Divorce’ (The New York Times, 1997): https://www.nytimes.com/1997/01/18/world/before-date-of-new-law-ireland-grants-first-divorce.html