THE outgoing Bishop of Cork and Ross says cutting the waiting time for divorce in Ireland could “possibly undermine family and marriage”.
Bishop John Buckley said tomorrow’s referendum on divorce is not just about reducing the waiting time for divorce but also “whether you want to put the decision and the length of the waiting time in the hands of the politicians and not in the hands of the people as it is at present under the Constitution.”
He added: “There will be nothing to stop a future Government reducing the waiting time to one year, six months or less.”
He said we must be supportive to people in troubled relationships, particularly “in cases of violence and serious ill-treatment”.
He added government and society must do everything to support couples who experience difficulties in their relationships before “the situation becomes too serious”.
Bishop Buckley said the church provides support “for all stages of family life”.
He added: “It is also about children and that is why it is conferred with tax incentives, legal rights and why society has been so supportive of marriage. Even at a purely economic level, nothing is more important to the state than healthy family life.”
However, the executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Corkman Liam Herrick, said that the proposal to give the Oireachtas the say on the time limit for divorce is positive, adding that the requirement for couples to be separated for two out of the three previous years “is proportionate”.
Mr Herrick said that the last 20 years has shown that Ireland still has a lower divorce rate than other European countries.
He added: “The culture of the marriage family has not changed in Ireland and the current situation (where a couple have to be living apart for four out of the previous five years) has placed a disproportionate hardship on some families.
“The four-year time limit is inappropriate where it is clear that there has been an irretrievable breakdown, including situations where there was domestic abuse and violence in the relationship.”
He pointed out that the current situation also requires couples to first go through a judicial separation before divorce proceedings, leading to “extra trauma and cost”.
The Free Legal Advice Centre, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), One Family, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) and the Lawyers for Yes have all come together to call for a Yes vote in tomorrow’s referendum.