Report of Committee on Marriage Breakdown: Statements (Resumed).

Friday, 29 November 1985

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 362 No. 4

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Deputy David Andrews has 37 minutes.

Mr. D. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  I had the singular honour and privilege of serving on the New Ireland Forum. I would refer to that report dealing with the framework for a new Ireland at chapter 5, paragraph 5.2 (6) where it says:

[714] Civil and religious liberties and rights must be guaranteed and there can be no discrimination or preference in laws or administrative practices, on grounds of religious belief or affiliation; government and administration must be sensitive to minority beliefs and attitudes and seek consensus.

Lecky's history of Ireland in the 18th century when dealing with the Act of Union and the fact that there were many Catholic demonstrations in its support, said that an extreme want of moral courage and an extreme susceptibility to external influence have always prevailed in Ireland and the combined pressure of a Government which had so much to give in this world and of a priesthood which was believed to have so much influence over the next were enormously great.

In 1891 at the time of Home Rule and the crisis attached to it the national press put a series of questions to Archbishop Croke about Parnell and in his reply Archbishop Croke said that Parnell could not be accepted as a leader, not because he had committed a grievous offence against the moral law but because, having shown no sign of repentance, he should not be set up on a pinnacle by Christian people to be respected and consulted as a leader should be. He went on to say, “In other words, you cannot support Mr. Parnell's leadership without giving public scandal, condoning his offence and thus disturbing the landmark of social morality”. As we know, Mr. Parnell's offence was that he was cited in a divorce case and subsequently married a divorcee. Extreme want of moral courage and extreme susceptibility to internal influence characterised the response of Parnell's party to his dilemma at the time. Had those men had the courage to recognise divorce as a human right and human fallibility as a consequence of our less than perfect humanity, they might have saved Parnell from his enemies and Ireland from its fate.

Things have not changed very much from that time in so far as some of our Catholic bishops have been preaching that the Catholic politician must legislate [715] only for Catholic morality. For those bishops the hallmark of social morality which Archbishop Croke spoke about has not changed much, albeit there is a greater compassion from the Church, and understanding, for those involved in broken marriages. The dilemma which the Parnellites faced then has not lost significance for Catholic politicians today. Some bishops ask Catholic legislators to legislate according to the theology of the Catholic Church. They are merely echoing the further reply of Archbishop Croke in the National Press at the time, and I quote:

Surely for Catholics the final decision must rest with the Church speaking through the bishops, otherwise what would be the point of endowing them with plenary jurisdiction over faith and morals if individual members of the fold can render that jurisdiction nugatory by stating that they cannot accept the ruling of the bishops in a particular case in as much as it involved only secular issues?

Possibly some people, particularly those involved in marriage breakdown, would describe that historical example as tragic. It highlights the extraordinary emotions which a Church-politics controversy can arouse and it indicates the ambivalence of the Irish attitude towards such a conflict. Without an understanding of that conflict and the ambivalence which is in all of us, we cannot hope to move this debate one step further towards obtaining the consent of all the political parties for the holding of a referendum on the removal of a prohibition on divorce in the Constitution. The reluctance to tackle the problems of divorce reflects an understandable distaste in relation to repeating the sort of divisive accusation and counter-accusation which characterised the pro-life amendment debate and the debate on contraception which, to say the least of it, did not distinguish us as a legislature.

Certain sections of the laity, the ordinary people, played an undesirable role in trying to pressurise politicians to take [716] up one position or another and politicians who went against their views were abused. That sort of pressure in public life is unacceptable. Politicians should lead and not be led and they must take the consequences of their leadership in the next election. Whilst it is a great privilege to serve the people as a Dáil representative, there is a life after politics.

The reluctance to tackle the whole question of divorce reflects this distaste in regard to entering into a Church-State conflict. It also reflects unwillingness to enter into an unseemly Church-State row over the rights or wrongs of Catholic politicans enacting legislation in the moral sphere which does not truly reflect Catholic theology or laws. Unfortunately, whether we as politicians like it or otherwise, the dilemma must be faced. It is only a matter of timing as to when the dilemma must be faced. In the current jargon the nettle must be grasped. If we do not tackle the problem of divorce now, then it is only a pious platitude to state, as we do in the frame of a new Ireland in the Forum report, that civil and religious rights and liberties must be guaranteed and that there can be no discrimination or preference in laws on the grounds of religious belief or affiliation.

As a Catholic legislator I would prefer that the legislation would reflect what I consider to be Catholic morality as I understand it. I emphasise the word “I”. It is a matter entirely for me in that regard and the consequences would be equally a matter for me. I was not elected to represent Catholics but rather to represent people of different views, backgrounds or religions. I was elected to represent Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, flat earthers, people who might have no view on religion or no religion at all. That is how I see my role as a legislator. I must take account of everybody's views, religious or otherwise. Yes, I am a Catholic but I do not see myself as a legislator specially for Catholics or as a Catholic legislator. In my approach to legislation I am obliged to reflect changing attitudes and beliefs among the people.

[717] I cannot turn a blind eye to the many broken marriages which I come face to face with on almost a weekly basis. I hold my political clinics and I see that elsewhere in the social structures and ethos of Dublin. The number of broken marriages is becoming horrific, to say the least of it. Anybody who pretends that that is not so is not facing up to reality. I cannot be insensitive to the fact that many of those people form new relationships and family units who are as entitled to the protection of the law as any other family unit. Many of these people desire strongly and anxiously to have the right to remarry and to legitimise the children of the new relationships.

One cannot be insensitive to the fact expressed in the report which we are discussing now, that all the minority Churches and religions do not favour the retention of the blanket prohibition on divorce in the Constitution and they consider the availability of divorce legislation as a basic right, notwithstanding the fact that certain of those Churches, as a matter of internal discipline, disapprove of divorce. I cannot see any justification for the civil law in Ireland continuing to reflect on the views expressed by the Church of which the majority of the population are members. I accept that by so doing at present it discriminates against members of other Churches and religions and those who profess no religious faith at all.

In stating that, I cannot ignore the untold human misery and tragedy of broken marriages and the fact that in many cases the family is best protected by being allowed to recreate itself in a new and loving and legal relationship. While advocating the need for rational divorce legislation here, nevertheless it should be conditional on very rigid procedures and safeguards for the children of divorced marriages. The emphasis in any divorce legislation should be that divorce is a last resort after all other methods including mediation, education and consultation have been tried and failed. It certainly should not be granted to couples whose marriages have not irretrievably broken down for at least five [718] years. There should be no question of divorce on demand.

As any such legislation would require access to the High Court before a divorce could be obtained, I would broadly support the views expressed in chapter 9 of the committee's report, towards a new family court structure. In this context anybody who doubts that there are serious problems for Irish marriages today should merely look at the daily list of family cases which come before the Circuit Court. I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of those cases are ones where the marriage has irretrievably broken down and one or other or both partners would dearly like to see some form of humane divorce legislation introduced here.

At present opinion polls show a majority in favour of removing the constitutional prohibition on divorce. This does not mean that, were such a referendum to be held, the majority would be maintained. The view is often expressed that, were the full weight of the Catholic Hierarchy to row in against such a referendum, it would be difficult for any political party, unsupported by the others, to convince the electorate of the need to remove the prohibition. It is my view that the time has come to face the problem. It is my belief that, if all the political parties in the Dáil refrained from making this a political matter and allowed the debate to develop from outside the Dáil rather than from within, there would be a realistic chance of a referendum being passed.

If, on the other hand, parties take up hard positions either for or against such a change, then the chances of convincing the electorate that there ought to be a change will dissolve. I appeal to the Catholic Hierarchy not to elevate this into a major Church-State conflict, nor to seek to influence public opinion against those politicians who support change by implying, whether directly or by innuendo, that they are somehow less than perfect Catholics. We appreciate the high moral standards and principles of pure theology which guide the lives of bishops and priests. However, those of us married [719] people who see in our everyday lives the consequences of human fallibility and weakness know that there is no perfect answer to the problem of a broken marriage.

As politicians and legislators we cannot close our eyes to what is going on around us. In almost every civilised state in the world divorce is a recognised human right and there is no evidence of which I am aware that, in Catholic countries where divorce is available, the principle that marriage is a lifelong commitment has been seriously breached. There are those who say that bad cases do not make good law. I respond by saying that very often there are bad cases because there is not good law. In the area of family law in Ireland there is an increasing number of cases of marital breakdown. We should respond by changing the law to deal with them. It will not be enough in my view to adopt a purely Irish solution for this problem. An extension of the grounds on which a decree of nullity can be granted by the High Court would simply be fudging the issue. If we adopted that course we would be doing so because we are afraid of the reality of divorce, afraid of calling a spade a spade.

This issue requires a brave and enlightened response from us politicians. It will not go away. In my view we should start now to dismantle outdated and anomalous conditions which our law contains on this subject. We should seek humane and progressive solutions to the problem of marriage breakdown, but we should recognise that for some people at some stage divorce is inevitable. If we are serious about creating the conditions for a new Ireland and serious about the conclusions drawn in the New Ireland Forum report then we should not confine changes in our law to a time when there is a new unitary State in Ireland. If the changes in divorce legislation are right now for a united Ireland, then they are right now also for the Republic of Ireland.

We have to face up to the problem. We should do so in a decent, constructive and civilised fashion. I hope the debate is conducted in a calm and controlled [720] way without accusing one another of base motives of one form or another. That has been one of the great tragedies of debates on social legislation here in recent years. One is seen as being less than perfect if one has a different point of view from another individual. One of my greatest weaknesses as a politician is that I can see everybody else's point of view. I may not agree with the points of view of other people, but I can understand them. One of my trade marks as a public representative has been a willingness to listen to the point of view of other individuals. I recognise the absolute right of individuals to express a reasonable point of view in a democratic nationalist republican society.

In addition to having the privilege of serving on the New Ireland Forum I was appointed by the late great Seán Lemass to the informal Committee on the Constitution set up in August 1966 to review the constitutional, legislative and institutional bases of Government. It is interesting to note the other persons who served on that committee. There was the late Don Davern, Senator James Dooge, the late Seán Dunne, Deputy Denis Jones, Deputy Robert Molloy, the then Senator Michael O'Kennedy, former Deputy T.F. O'Higgins, Senator Eoin Ryan, the late Gerard Sweetman and James Tully. The late George Colley who was then Minister for Industry and Commerce acted as chairman of the committee and in November 1966, Seán F. Lemass T.D. was nominated a member of the committee in place of Deputy Don Davern who had been appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture.

I was a very young politician at that time and it was a great honour for me to be appointed to that committee by the late Seán Lemass, an extraordinarily generous man who had time for young politicians. I spent many a half hour with him discussing all sorts of topics. He was fascinating to listen to. The committee dealt with Articles 41.3 and 44.2, provisions relating to marriage, in the Constitution. It is interesting to read paragraph 124 of the report which states:

[721] It would appear to us that the object underlying this prohibition could be better achieved by using alternative wording which would not give offence to any of the religions professed by the inhabitants of this country. An example of such an alternative would be a provision somewhat on the following lines:

“In the case of a person who was married in accordance with the rites of a religion, no law shall be enacted providing for the grant of a dissolution of that marriage on grounds other than those acceptable to that religion”.

It would probably be necessary to add a clause to the effect that this was not to be regarded as contravening any other provision of the Constitution prohibiting religious discrimination. This wording would, we feel, meet the wishes of Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

It would permit the enactment of marriage laws acceptable to all religions. It would not provide any scope for changing from one religion to another with a view to availing of a more liberal divorce regime. While it would not deal specifically with marriages not carried out in accordance with the rites of a religion, it would not preclude the making of rules relating to such cases.

When coming to that conclusion, we were handed a large plethora of submissions of one sort or another. We were also at that time asked to examine decisions reached at the recent Vatican Council. It is important to note that the existing prohibition on the dissolution of marriage deprives a Catholic also of certain rights which he or she would have under religious tenets. Let me quote again from the report:

There are several circumstances in which the Catholic Church will grant dissolutions of valid marriages or will issue declarations of nullity. We understand—

[722]—That is the committee—

—that many thousands of cases are dealt with under these provisions every year either at Rome or by diocesan and metropolitan courts throughout the world. The absolute prohibition in our Constitution has, therefore, the effect of imposing on Catholics regulations more rigid than those required by the law of the Church. This conflict is referred to in a number of publications by Catholic authors.

That will be my concluding reference to the report of the Committee on the Constitution. We had many respected Members of the House on that committee and I sometimes wonder has the debate progressed any further since people of the eminence of Seán Lemass and George Colley within my own party and members of other parties served on that committee. It may have progressed possibly marginally, but at the same time we continue to abuse one another for expressing a point of view on a very important social problem. What was happening then is happening now and will happen again, unfortunately, when people take up rigid positions and think their point of view is absolute. The significant and interesting aspect of that quotation is that the Church is ahead of the State in the context of marriage breakdown. Those who may be very critical of the Church might pay tribute to the compassion shown by the Church, its priests and representatives.

At the New Ireland Forum a significant contribution was made by the Church as represented by the Irish Episcopal Conference Delegation. Some very interesting submissions were made by very eminent members who made their point of view known without any problem and were very reasonable indeed in their attitudes to the questions put to them. One representative of that delegation was Mrs. Mary McAleese. She was posed a question on marital breakdown and her answer reflects very fairly the right and position of the Church. It is an attitude that must be supported. Mrs. McAleese, [723] in the report of 9 February 1984, public session in Dublin Castle, said:

I think it may be slightly unfair, in one sense, although I understand perfectly the legitimacy of the question—

—that is on marital breakdown—

—to expect the Church to give you an answer to a dilemma that clearly you as legislators have.

I have already said that it is a dilemma and I do not think that we have faced up to it. Mrs. McAleese continued:

We have expressed the point, time and again, that you have a job to do and it is entirely up to yourselves to do it. The Church wants no hand or part in making the decision.

Those bishops who would call us Catholic legislators specifically and only, might take note of that very fine remark.

Mrs. McAleese continued:

It is your decision. The only right the Church reserves is like any group in a democracy, the freedom to have its say on the issue if the issue happens to be divorce and to have that taken into the balance. At the end of the day it is up to you how you weight that view.

That is a very reasonable and utterly sustainable point of view. Again, arising from a question put to Dr. Cahal Daly, Bishop of Down and Connor, who was a member of that delegation, the bishop said:

I know you will argue that there is a lot of experience of divorce legislation and its implications and its consequences right around the world so I should have thought that there is a very good case to be made for feeling that this need not be the way, may not be the best way, and that, in fact, on grounds of compassion alone one could feel compassion for those whose marriages would be threatened and the children, whose future would be jeopardised, by certain kinds of legislation. Surely there is experientially a built-in [724] multiplier in divorce legislation which, however restricted it may wish to be at the beginning, becomes impossible to contain until you arrive, as in every legislation virtually in the western world at the present time, at the simple no fault divorce situation.

With the greatest respect to Dr. Daly, that is one of the problems in relation to divorce which we should try to avoid. We should make divorce very difficult to obtain and try all other avenues before we arrive at the inevitable or irretrievable breakdown of marriage.

To continue with what Dr. Daly said:

Nobody foresaw that when it started.

—that is the no fault divorce situation—

Nobody wanted that when it started but people are caught on a kind of moving staircase that carries them far beyond where they want to go, by the sheer momentum built into the legislation itself. It has not been possible to maintain restriction. It is a very complex issue and it is easy to think that divorce is the only way. What we are pleading is that other ways have not been looked at and that people should not be left with any illusions about the consequences which not merely may, but from the experience of other countries, will follow from divorce legislation.

Again, that is a very reasonable point of view. Whilst Dr. Daly does not support divorce, he says that other avenues should be tried and sought and experienced before the inevitable consequences of marriage breakdown become a reality and a divorce is granted.

I am about to run out of time. I hope I have placed on the record my views in as clear, reasonable and concise a manner as possible. Let me pay tribute, finally, to the Members of all parties who sat on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Marriage Breakdown. Their report is an extremely valuable document. It is a very good reference book in relation to the whole question of marriage breakdown. [725] It does not necessarily relate only to divorce, but to matrimonial poverty, guardianship, custody, maintenance and so many other related matters, the question of judicial separation, divorce a mensa et thoro— that is bed and board separation. It is very broad in its outlook on the whole question of marriage and the family.

It deals with the constitutional position, the protection of marriage and family life, the question of marriage breakdown, the problems caused by marriage breakdown, the statistics, the legal remedies, mediation, towards a new family court structure, summary of opinions of the committee and then the appendices.

Much credit must go to those members from all parties who served on that committee.

Minister for Health and Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond): Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  I welcome the report of the Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown. While the report has shortcomings, it is nonetheless a major contribution to public debate on the issues involved in marriage breakdown in our society. Its shortcomings stems from its reluctance to draw the logical conclusions from its own arguments and to make a firm and unequivocal recommendation on the need for divorce. The controversy over the committee's failure to agree on divorce has, perhaps, obscured the contribution of its members in recommending a new framework for examining the institution of marriage and the problems associated with it.

In elucidating this new framework, the committee had the benefits of more than 700 written submissions, a number which testify to the scale of the interest and concern about marriage.

Most of the submissions drew attention to the lack of protection for family life, to intolerable situations arising from broken marriages, to the inadequacy of legal remedies and the need for legal and social reform. Let no one argue that these issues are unimportant or indeed that a small minority is making a mountain out of a [726] molehill. Far from it. We are confronted now in Irish society with the need to reform a fundamental aspect of our society and we should now face up to it, difficult and all that it is.

Much of the public attention has been directed at the report's recommendations on divorce and the amendment of the Constitution. I agree with the majority view of the committee that a referendum should be held to amend the Constitution to allow the Oireachtas to introduce divorce legislation. While the committee would not express any views on whether divorce legislation was necessary or desirable, it seems to me that this reticence is out of keeping with the main thrust of their report.

I am sure that no one in this House and none of the shades of political or religious opinion represented here would consciously support any measures which would weaken the marriage bond. I certainly would not want to do that myself. I do think that all of us who favour a divorce system start generally from the same position — that it should be based on the concept of marriage breakdown; that it should not create a situation of divorce on demand; and that it would pose no threat to the generality of marriage.

What we are talking about when we visualise the possibility of divorce is not — I would stress — the severance of a deep emotional bond or the destruction of a happy family but the ending, in a purely legalistic sense, of a relationship which has become a mere formality. We are talking about marriages that are already dead, about situations where one spouse has deserted the other, God knows, as Minister for Social Welfare I am more than aware of that. I know, in terms of payments, that there are thousands of such families. We are talking about partnerships which, in some instances, have degenerated into hatred and even violence. We know the havoc that wreaks on children in a marriage of such detestable violence. Therefore, how can anybody argue that it is in the interests of society as a whole or morality in any country to keep couples legally tied [727] together in such entirely damaging alliances? And if there are persons involved in failed marriages of this sort who feel that they can pick up the threads of a happier life, and if they have no religious scruples about remarriage, why do we in this country, in our Constitution and in Dáil Éireann, prevent them from doing so? Long years ago when I came into this House — and I am very pleased that my colleague, Deputy David Andrews, has spoken so emphatically this morning on the question — I came to the conclusion that it is absurd, callous and unjust to enforce a state of continuing unhappiness, in that framework, on any human being. That is why I am in favour of amending the Constitution and introducing amending legislation.

In par. 7.8.19 the committee endorses what I consider to be two other fundamental reasons why provision for divorce ought to be made in our legal system. In that paragraph the members point out that despite the current prohibition on divorce, persons whose marriages have irretrievably broken down are forming permanent relationships with other men and women and that these new families lack any adequate legal status and protection. We do not know the precise number of such families, but we are certainly talking of many thousands. A casual examination of census data shows the validity of that argument. These families exist outside the pale of legal protections afforded to families founded on marriage.

The children of such marriages or liaisons are illegitimate. For example, the spouses do not have the protection of the Family Home Protection Act, and dependent partners and children have no legal right to maintenance. Not only is the law being brought into disrepute but the situation is also, in the words of the committee, “harsh, unnecessary and unjust” to the parties to such relationships.

The committee also point out that representatives of most of the minority religions in this country sincerely believe that the current constitutional position [728] discriminates against members of their Churches and religions. The effect of the Article on the family in the Constitution is to impose, with the best of motives, the teaching of the majority Church in this country on the whole population. It is, as far as I am aware, the only Article of the Constitution which is considered to discriminate against minority religions in this way since the repeal of Article 44.

Some argue that since the prohibition on divorce is the view of the majority, it should, therefore, be enshrined in the Constitution. The view of the majority in a democracy is an important justification for any measure, but it is not the only one. One definition of democracy puts less emphasis on rule by the majority than on respect by the majority for the rights of minorities. Therefore, the debate on divorce gives Irish people the chance to decide what kind of democracy they really want. We have to make a choice between domination by the majority or respect by the majority for the interests of minorities. I have no hesitation in choosing the latter.

Members of this House will be only too aware of those arguments which claim that Catholic legislators should only legislate in accordance with the teaching of their Church. By extension, the same argument is applied to Supreme Court judges, doctors and health board officials. I cannot accept that argument. I share the views of ministerial colleague, Austin Deasy, when he says that “as a Government Minister I am responsible for and answerable to Irish citizens of all religious denominations, Christians and non-Christians, atheists and agnostics. I am a non-denominational politician”. I agree with him that to legislate solely as a Roman Catholic for Roman Catholics amounts to political bigotry, a bigotry which this country desperately needs to leave behind it.

Despite the fact that the fear of being belted by a crozier has occasionally intimidated persons who have served in this House, there has been a long tradition in Irish political life which has emphasised the desirability of maintaining the separation of Church and State.

[729] This is by no means the first time that it has been necessary to draw a distinction between the policies of Church and State. I wish to give an interesting example. Recently, going back over the history of social insurance in this country I came across a debate in the House of Commons on 14 November 1911 and I quote from Hansard, volume 31, column 228:

The Irish Hierarchy had called for Ireland's exclusion from the Health Insurance Act, 1911 which provided financial protection for the working classes against unemployment, sickness, disability and maternity. The Irish Party defended the extension of these benefits to Ireland.

Many years ago Joe Devlin, a Belfast man and radical Nationalist, speaking on another issue which divided the nation, nailed his colours to the mast when he said that as the representative of his constituency, “no man, be he bishop or layman, has my conscience in his pocket”.

I was elected to legislate for all the people. Judges are appointed to interpret the law for all the people and health board officials are also employed to administer the law for all the people. I favour divorce, not because I want to attack marriage or encourage marriage breakdown but because I wish to legislate in the best interest of all the people. As Minister for Health and Minister for Social Welfare, I am acutely aware of the destruction which marriage breakdown wreaks on the lives of men, women and children who are affected by it.

There is, by extension, another reason why the remedy of divorce and remarriage should be available in certain circumstances. There is a large minority on this island whose interest and views on many matters have long been ignored in the Republic. I refer to the Ulster Unionists. One dimension of the historic Anglo-Irish accord agreed two weeks ago has received very little attention. On this historic day, when both Governments have communicated with one another formally and notified one another of their acceptance of that agreement, it is [730] important to point out that that accord enables the Irish Government to have a democratic, consultative role in many matters affecting Northern Ireland which I hope, will improve the position of Catholic Nationalists. I stress that my concern is not confined exclusively in that direction. How can the Government in Dublin pursue policies which conflict with the interest of the Protestant minority on this island while professing their determination to protect the interest of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland? How do we expect to convince Unionists that there is benefit to them in the arrangements of the accord while refusing to move one inch to meet them on issues such as divorce?

“Not an inch” has been the traditional battle cry of the more extreme Unionists; I am afraid that the same intransigence is to be found among some elements on this side of the Border. We are used to looking at issues as to how they affect the farmers, the trade unions or the tourist industry. We must begin to look at issues as they affect Unionists and consider what is in the best interests of this island as a whole.

The existence of divorce in Northern Ireland since 1937 is one reason why we must remove the constitutional prohibition on divorce in this part of the island. Deputy Bell made a useful contribution to this debate by describing the provision for divorce in the North and suggesting it as a model for developments here. The existence of divorce in the North weakens the arguments of those who suggest that the introduction of divorce in this part of Ireland would undermine the institution of marriage.

I am glad the report recommended that a referendum should be held on the question of whether the Oireachtas should be empowered to introduce divorce legislation. That is in accord with the long standing policy of the Labour Party. We have been endeavouring to sponsor a Bill which would follow closely the recommendations of the report on marriage breakdown. Within that framework only the family court or tribunal could decide when a marriage had broken [731] down irretrievably and the same court would have to protect the interests of the first spouse and family. Divorce would not be easy or simple.

Provision will also be made for the establishment of a mediation service and a special family court. The purpose of publishing this Bill is to satisfy the electorate before any referendum. The issue is being handled in a responsible way as it has been in the past going back to the work done by Deputy Eileen Desmond in particular when it was neither fashionable nor popular to express any view on divorce. It was handled in an extremely responsible way and there is no question of introducing divorce on demand or undermining the institution of marriage. There is a great need now for education for living whether in marriage or outside it or for people who have a liaison of a personal kind.

While in my view we have an obligation in charity and in justice to provide a responsible system of divorce, we have an even greater responsibility to provide the sort of preventive facilities which will help to reduce the likelihood of family breakdown.

We must begin as far back as we can go. It seems to me that the main way to strengthen the concept of marriage and to contribute to its durability lies in the education for life that we can give our children and young people. Obviously the primary responsibility falls on those of us who are parents. Our values, our personal example and our broad instruction — although all young people resent that word — set the most valuable guidelines for our children. This parental approach is of course supported and expanded by the religious training, ethos and background which most families have and which their children will receive.

There are very many influences which have eroded traditional values and diminished parental and Church influences and it is necessary therefore for the State, the Oireachtas and our health agencies to play a role in this area. There is a great need for it. The Health Education Bureau, the health boards and our [732] schools slowly and painfully are now getting into active partnership in teaching young people about avoiding hazards to their health and well-being in the broadest sense. This preparation for life, for lifestyles that are healthy in every sense of the word will, I hope, contribute to the establishment of sounder-based marriages in the future. Few would agree that we have served our young people well in regard to that type of education in the past. Perhaps it is a mark of age on my part when I say that there is more education in relation to marriage in the pubs where our young people drink and meet one another than there is in many a home, church or school. That is in some respects a sad commentary on our failure in this area.

I now turn to the minimum age for marriage. I can think of few more important decisions in life than the decision to marry. We are unlikely to get mature decisions from 16 year olds. Decisions about a life partner should not be taken until a person has reached what would be generally regarded as the age at which adulthood begins. Even 18 years of age seems a tender age for a person to undertake the life-long responsibilities of marriage, responsibilities to which so many people attach so little importance in making such a momentous decision.

The report endorses the importance of pre-marriage guidance, as well as marriage counselling for those experiencing marital difficulties. I am glad to say that the Department of Health and the health boards already support the work of voluntary organisations in this field, such as the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council and the Marriage Counselling Service and I am only too well aware of their innovative contribution in this field. Despite limited resources I have found it possible every year since I have had the good fortune, although some may hold it a misfortune, to hold the Health portfolio to increase the financial support for these bodies and to give an initial grant to the Family Institute, a new organisation providing professional advice to families in trouble.

[733] Before summing up, I appeal in particular to the Leader of the Opposition to respond to this report in a positive and constructive way. I do not think that the Fianna Fáil Party in the history of this country will get any benefit lying in ambush on this issue for another 18 months in the hope that there will be a referendum. Their participation in such a referendum would be of abstention until the point of the production of a Bill and thereafter total opposition in the hope of causing acute embarrassment to the Government, having a final go at the Taoiseach, joining forces and having the Government defeated in a referendum, defeated on a Bill and defeated in a general election. Power allegedly corrupts but the prospect of power frequently corrupts absolutely. I hope that will not happen in relation to this issue. There are many Deputies on the Opposition benches whose views I respect, such as Deputy David Andrews and the Deputy who is to speak next, Deputy Pádraig Faulkner, whose concerns I share. I hold that there is an emphatic obligation devolving on the Leader of the Opposition, who apparently determines all such issues on a unilateral basis within his party, to show magnanimity, a national concern and a concern whereby this will be brought above the prospect of narrow party political advantage in the hope that this House can discuss the matter on a rational basis and enter into a referendum with the prospect of amending legislation. This Government have the capacity to do that. We have the capacity and the willingness to consult and I am willing to do my utmost to see if a consensus can be reached in this area and to remove it from a matter of party political gain in the context of a general election.

To sum up, I shall say clearly what in my view we must do in regard to this very fundamental issue. We must have, in justice and charity, a system of divorce based on principles which will avoid any weakening of the role of marriage as the rock on which our society is built. We must have the necessary constitutional referendum and if the people approve, [734] and I hope they will, we must have the necessary divorce legislation.

Whether or not we have divorce we must go on educating our young people for a life where hopefully human relationships and human values will be such that there will be little need for divorce and we will have happier personal relationships between men and women in their marital roles, in the legal framework of society and in the sum total of human relationships.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  I welcome the report of the Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown and I should like to pay tribute to the work carried out by members of that committee. The report is a comprehensive document covering a wide field and it underlines the seriousness of the problems facing our society, problems that have been increasing in recent years.

In the report the committee examined in considerable depth the various aspects of marriage breakdown. They recommend solutions to cope with a variety of areas of breakdown and, perhaps understandably because of the deep divisions in attitude among the public generally, they left other aspects of the matter for further debate and consideration.

The committee probed the causes of marital breakdown and they outlined the consequences that could result from a variety of remedies for society as a whole and for individuals. Considerable agreement is to be found in the report but, as I said earlier, it is obvious from it that there were also differences, mainly in respect of solutions in areas of particular difficulty.

Members of the committee appeared to be in total agreement on the need to protect marriage and the family. The family unit is fundamental to the well-being of society and of the State. The people responsible for the 1937 Constitution clearly recognised this and they included an Article in the Constitution which laid down the lines on which the well-being of the family would be guaranteed. Considerable changes in attitudes resulting in social change have taken place since 1937 but the philosophy that [735] motivated those people who formulated the 1937 Constitution in respect of ensuring the wellbeing of the family is as relevant today as it was in 1937.

The family unit is under tremendous pressure in modern times. Social attitudes and needs have changed dramatically. Not so many years ago economic circumstances, particularly in rural Ireland where the husband, wife and children needed to combine merely to exist, meant there was little time to think of separation, let alone to decide upon it. I do not need to outline the change that has occurred in recent times where in many circumstances a husband and wife work and are financially independent of one another and the effect of that situation on attitudes. There is also the case where the husband and wife may be unemployed and are subject to the all-pervading advertising in the media and pressures that that brings.

The influence of these and other pressures on the individual today necessitates that not only should we have recognition of the rights of the family but the provisions in the Constitution in that respect should be acted upon fully to ensure that we secure the well-being of the family unit. Much more has to be done if we are to put into practice the terms of the Constitution in respect of the family. That is not to say that nothing has been done. I realise it has become the in-thing to suggest that the terms used in respect of the family in the Constitution are just pious platitudes but that little was done in a practical way. When I was a student in a training college I was a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and each week I visited a family living in a tenament that housed 17 families. It is quite obvious that is not the case now. That, however, is past history. The problems facing families today are different but in many instances they are no less difficult and a positive identification of them and a search for solutions are a vital necessity.

The committee emphasised the importance of education in respect of preparation for marriage and the need [736] for a structured approach to ensure that those preparing for marriage are made aware of their duties, obligations and rights and the practical means by which these can be put into effect. It is being said with more than a little truth that for far too long those making the most important decision of their lives, namely to marry, made their decision and entered into marriage without any preparation whatever. The need for education and careful study was accepted as necessary in the case of every other major decision in life but in the case of marriage it was accepted that two people simply met, decided to marry and hoped for the best.

In earlier times when the background of most people was rural there did not appear to be much need for preparation because then the family became an economic unit and its existence depended largely on a close-knit working unit. Today social and economic conditions have changed and I am anxious for a comprehensive education programme within our educational system designed to properly prepare our people for marriage. The emphasis in such a programme must be on its comprehensive nature. It must not be confined to what is loosely termed sex education. It must concern itself with the totality of relationships. It must be about the respect of one human being for another human being. It must be about communication and understanding. Reference to marriage as such need only be introduced incidentally in such a course. The course must concern itself with relationships and have a bearing on all facets of living. If we had more understanding, if we were prepared to see the point of view of the other person, if we were ready to respect others whatever their social standing, class or creed because they are people created by God, then much of the turmoil in people's lives would begin to abate. If through our educational system we could improve attitudes to our fellow human beings we would be laying the foundation for the preparation of our young people towards more responsible adulthood and ensuring [737] that they approach the serious decision of marriage in an adult and responsible manner.

Throughout my life as a parent, teacher and public representative, I have thought our educational system concentrated far too much on a rather narrow definition of the person. The be all and end all of the system appears to be to get good examination results. The pressure today to get as many points as possible in examinations effectively squeezes out the ultimately much more important development of the human person in himself and in his relationships with his fellow human beings. Thus, we produce people who, whatever their academic or technical achievements, have no concept as to how to relate to their fellows and their marriages could be doomed even before they think of marriage.

This can apply at all levels of society. The restructuring of our educational system in this respect at all levels is fundamental to achieving our objectives. As our educational system stands today, it would be quite reasonable for school authorities and teachers to point to their workload and to say there is simply not the time to concern themselves about matters that do not relate to examinations. It is not that they do not wish to promote human relationships but that the system does not permit of it. Therefore, I am convinced that as all of us are in agreement about the importance of the family and the need to nurture and protect it and taking cognisance of the tremendous pressures on the family today, it is vital that we act speedily in the educational sphere to provide the necessary structures to combat problems that were not even thought of a few short years ago.

Change in the educational system is needed to combat modern insidious pressures on the family, which all members of the committee appear to have accepted as being the cornerstone of the well being of the nation.

I have dealt with the urgent need for educational development at some length because I believe that properly structured development could transform the scene [738] in years to come. At the same time, with the committee, I recognise that there are breakdowns in relationships and that considerable numbers of people are experiencing grave marital problems which we must endeavour to tackle and try to overcome in the short term.

There is an urgent need for the development of counselling services at the pre-marriage stage. This is a matter which in recent years has been given considerable attention by the Churches, which have recognised the need for counselling and which have made considerable progress in that area and indeed they deserve our thanks and congratulations. However, the Churches have limited resources and the State must accept that it has also got a responsibility and I would suggest that the State might consult with the Churches and voluntary organisations engaged in this work to see how best it can help. The State will clearly benefit from any effort which will help stabilise marriages.

Though it is a fact that we have got at least a framework in respect of pre-marriage counselling, we have little or no help in the area of after-marriage counselling and indeed very little supportive assistance for married couples. It is most important that problems which arise in the early years of marriage are tackled quickly. A difficulty is that such problems may be recognisable for quite a time only within the immediate family circle and cannot be tackled because those concerned do not know where to turn or may not have any place or anybody to turn to. We are aware that many marriages break down in the early years of marriage.

Adjusting to the new state of marriage by two different personalities can be difficult, especially where there is little preparation for marriage, but we have done little or nothing to provide the services needed in such circumstances. There is, therefore, a grave need for locally based counselling and other services, well advertised, so that couples in need know what is available, and where they can go for help to have their problems discussed and they hope solved.

The age factor is also a matter to which [739] we must give particular attention, something which is recognised by the committee. It is true to say that almost all of those who made submissions to the committee pointed to the need to raise the age limit for marriage to 18 years. Indeed, in spite of 18 being the age of majority, we might consider a higher minimum age for marriage. Marriage is a lifelong commitment and young people contemplating marriage should be mature enough to understand and appreciate the responsibilities and duties which go with such a commitment.

Studying figures from Britain, it can be seen that the age of marriage is closely associated with the likelihood of marriage breakdown. The figures show that the chance of marriage breakdown generally declines the older the spouses are when they marry. In fact it is shown that spouses who marry in their teens are twice as likely to experience marriage breakdown as those who marry between 20 and 24 years of age. If the 1980-81 divorce rates in Britain were to continue, almost three in every five teenage bachelor grooms and one in two spinster teenage brides would eventually divorce. These figures show how susceptible to marriage breakdown teenage people are, and it is therefore vital that through our educational system and by whatever other means are at our disposal this fact should be brought home to our teenagers.

The committee point to the fact that problems arising from an over-indulgence in alcohol are a cause of marriage breakdown. When it is noted that in 1982 the number of admissions to psychiatric hospitals resulting from alcohol abuse and alcoholic psychosis was 7,189, we can get some appreciation of the problem. It is, therefore, the duty of the State to do all in its power to try to ensure moderation in the use of alcoholic beverages. Effective measures must be introduced with regard to underage drinking and ensuring that the law is upheld in this area. Concern is being expressed by parents of teenagers about the overglamorised advertisements for alcoholic drink [740] on television. Moderation must be the keyword in our approach to this matter.

Lack of proper housing and unemployment are major factors in respect of marriage breakdown. Divorce records in Britain show that there is a close association between social class and the incidence of divorce in that country. In 1979 the number of divorces per 1,000 husbands, between the ages of 16 and 59 years in unskilled manual occupations was more than four times that for husbands in professional occupations. The difference was even greater for young husbands, the comparable rates for the 20 to 29 years of age group were 55 and ten divorces, respectively.

Overall, the rate was highest for unemployed husbands, who, it might be suspected, were disproportionately drawn from the unskilled. For each age group, the divorce rate for the unemployed was about double that for the national average.

All of this must be a matter of concern for the Government and local authorities. The hardship and suffering of the unemployed is self-evident. Added to this we must now note the severe effect unemployment has on marriage and the family unit and, if we are sincere in our approach to Article 41 of the Constitution, we must redouble our efforts to reduce unemployment and ensure proper housing for all of our people.

Many of the matters to which I have referred come within the ambit of the State: for example, the provision and access to a pre-marriage guidance service, and an easily accessible and effective counselling service for all married couples, the raising of the minimum age for marriage from 16 to 18 years, or higher, ensuring that the law is carried out in respect of under age drinking and so on. Consideration must be given to these recommendations without delay.

I believe that there is a need for a mediation service and I note that chapter 8 of the report deals with this matter. There must be easy access to such a service. The State must involve itself in such a service. It must not be left simply as a [741] responsibility of voluntary organisations, although I endorse the view that voluntary organisations have a considerable role to play in the provision of mediation services. It is necessary that we have full time trained specialists available. When a marriage has broken down, emotion is usually very much to the fore, and untrained personnel, however caring, can easily exacerbate the problems rather than help to solve them. I believe, therefore, that we need specialists in the area coming with well trained part time people to ensure that the right approach is made and to ensure positive results.

When problems cannot be solved by mediation we need a family court structure which can deal with the problems of marriage breakdown and, indeed, which can deal with other family matters as well. Such courts need proper staffing and a back-up welfare service. Their proceedings should be private. Justices for such courts should be chosen carefully and given special training. We need the services of psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers in such courts. Finance should not be the determining factor.

A favourable decision on the divorce issue can be arrived at only if it can be shown to be for the greater good of society. I am not convinced that divorce is in the interest of society. I have pointed out already that I am keenly aware of, and very sensitive to, the problems facing individuals in the area of marriage breakdown but it would appear to me that the cure could become worse than the disease and we must examine thoroughly the social consequences of divorce and indeed its financial implications, if we are to reach proper conclusions.

Again, I emphasise that I accept there is genuine hardship in a number of cases in this country. Many of the proposals put forward by me in this debate have as their objective the amelioration of these problems and hardships. I recognise the traumatic experiences of those whose marriages have broken down, the agony, the mental torture and the physical abuse experienced by many during the course of the breakdown of marriage and the [742] exceptional need for help and assistance in such cases. I have been committed during the course of my public life to doing everything possible to assist people who find themselves in such circumstances.

However, taking into account the social upheaval which follows, I doubt that anybody could hold that the introduction of divorce into the countries where it now exists has been found to have been for the common good. Whatever may have been the good intentions, the granting of divorce has meant generally the end of society's interest in those involved. Very often a Government, having passed the legislation, believe they have done their share and in many cases one of the partners and sometimes both, become the flotsam and jetsam of society with nobody caring about them. There is no denying the fact that where divorce is introduced, respect for marriage and for the family unit wanes and, however genuine may be the attitudes of those who advocate divorce within certain limits, the end result of its introduction will be divorce on demand with the frightening social consequences that follow.

Many of those who advocate divorce say that it should be granted only in cases of the irretrievable breakdown of marriage. It is being suggested that such a provision should be written into our Constitution and copperfastened there. However, I would make the point that implicit in such a proposal is that divorce for any other reason is unacceptable and would be damaging to society in general and to the family in particular.

In western countries where divorce was introduced, there were specified stringent rules and regulations in respect of the granting of divorce, usually that divorce could not be granted except in cases of irretrievable breakdown of marriage but invariably as time passed pressures grew for less control, the original condition was watered down and eventually divorce on demand became the norm.

In Britain and America there is now one divorce for every three marriages and [743] the figure is moving towards one divorce in every two marriages. In Northern Ireland, the number of divorces has escalated since divorce was introduced there. In those circumstances we must accept that should divorce be introduced here and granted on the condition of irretrievable breakdown, we will find ourselves ultimately in the same situation as other European and American countries where divorce is permitted. Therefore, those who hold the irretrievable breakdown theory must accept that their proposal opens the door to the problems they themselves obviously envisage in the granting of divorce for reasons other than irretrievable breakdown. Therefore, I find it difficult to understand how they can sustain the irretrievable breakdown proposal. Even if the irretrievable breakdown of marriage were the only condition, one would have to ask oneself how such a breakdown would come about. One partner wishing to divorce and remarry could relatively easily contrive a marriage breakdown, regardless of whether the other person wanted a divorce.

I am concerned particularly with the effects of divorce on children. Adults may or may not be able to cope in a divorce situation but children, who would be my main concern, can not cope. They are the innocent victims of the whole divorce proceedings and the traumatic effect on them relates not only to the time of the divorce but, in many instances, all through their lives.

The director of the Yale Child Study Centre, Albert Solnit, reflecting the increasingly significant impact that divorce is having on American family life said, “divorce is one of the most serious mental health crises facing children in the 1980s”.

From 1950 to 1980 the divorce rate in the United States of America has doubled. Since 1972 an additional one million children have been affected there by their parents' divorce. It is estimated that approximately 45 per cent of the children growing up in the United States will see the separation or divorce of their parents.

[744] In divorce, children may not only lose a parent. They may also, as a result of relocation, lose their home, their school, their friends. Because the parent they live with may often, because of economic necessity, work outside the home, the children experience more time alone and more time with other caretakers. For many children divorce means economic hardship. Many children experience feelings of guilt, insecurity, anger and depression. Nearly all of them cling to a futile hope of reuniting their family though this is never likely to occur. Quite a percentage of these children never recover from the trauma and continue to be hurt and injured.

From studies which have been carried out, it is recognised that once children realise that their parents are divorcing, they enter a state of crisis. They feel that things have gone out of control. They cannot by their behaviour pull together their crumbling world.

Parents often think there will not be a crisis since the home was previously loaded with tension. They believe that through divorce the children will gain a sense of relief from anxiety in the home. However, to ascertain the reality vis-à-vis the children, one must try to view it through the eyes of a child. We are all aware of the saying, “when I was a child, I understood as a child”. A recent study has shown that less than 10 per cent of the children experienced relief at the time of separation even though 30 per cent of them had witnessed scenes of physical violence between the parents. Five years after the divorce more than 50 per cent of the children did not consider their family life improved over what it had been prior to the divorce. Though their parents had been unhappy, the children were fairly happy and did not believe —and this is important — they were worse off than other families. The parents may have felt relief from the divorce, but the children's psychological health did not improve markedly.

Another aspect of the change is that often less money will be available. The family now have the expense of two households. Often fathers do not or are [745] not able to contribute to the former level of support. It has been found that the average support for children of divorced parents was less than half the usual cost considered generally necessary for raising children.

To quite an extent all children of divorced parents are insecure. Because they live with one parent they fear what would happen to them if abandoned by that one parent. Fear of being alone in the world is at the core of the perceived danger. Children need to be dependent, although they sometimes protest loudly to the contrary. Given the insecurity of their world, the need for dependence becomes obvious, especially in younger children. For example, wanting to be in the same room, not going to visit friends, not wanting to go to school for fear that the parent, mother or father, as the case may be, may not be there when they return.

Children tend to blame themselves for divorce. While this may not appear rational to parents, the child can feel very much at fault. Young children particularly feel that if a divorce takes place it must be because they were bad because they tend to look at events in terms of good and bad. Children have been known to run away from home in such circumstances precisely because they believed that by so doing they would prevent the parents from breaking up.

On the educational front the National Children's Bureau point to the fact that British children from broken homes tend to be up to six months behind educationally at age seven and up to 12 months behind at age 11. In 1981 the head of a Church of England cathedral school said that the emotional instability in the family, following divorce was a worse educational curse than cuts in expenditure, falling rolls, school closures and reorganisation. Studies by Marshal Hamilton show that both boys and girls raised apart from their fathers tended to exhibit lower academic performance than those raised with their fathers.

Children are often shuttled between two homes in the event of a divorce. The arrangement could be that the children [746] will live with their mother and will see the father for a day each week, at the weekends. During that weekend, the children will have lots of games, eat at fast food restaurants, go on trips to the sea or to the mountains. New toys will be bought for them.

When they return home and must fall into the ordinary pattern of life, helping around the house, being disciplined and so on, the children become irritated with the mother and they become particularly disturbed. Children pay a high price when a parent is removed from the family network. The father can be a very pleasant person in such circumstances. Again, however, studies show that after a time there was a steady decline in attention to the children and for many fathers, after two years there was a significant decrease in the amount of time spent with the children as well as in the quality of the relationship. I could say much more on this subject, but I feel that, for the moment, I have said sufficient to show how traumatic and how damaging to children divorce is.

We are told polls show that nearly half the population would change the Constitution to allow the Dáil to pass divorce legislation. I wonder on what basis do people interviewed decide for divorce legislation. Have they studied or are they aware of the social and financial consequences, or do they relate to their own personal situation, or is it because of their knowledge of hard cases, or because they are or wish to be seen as liberal, or are they influenced by media presentation? The point I would make is that the public are entitled to be fully informed so that they can reach an informed decision.

If the public are to benefit from this debate so that they can be helped to make a considered judgment, it is essential that the media should adopt a balanced approach to these subjects. The in-thing today appears to be what is termed left-wingism dressed up in liberal clothes. The objective in many instances appears to be to categorise anything which opposes this view as being regressive conservatism, to suggest that those holding opposite opinions live in the past, are old [747] fashioned and not with it. During the course of this debate I have confined myself to the social needs of our people in respect of their marriage problems and the immense social problems to which divorce lends itself, particularly as it affects children and, to some extent, in respect of the financial burden it imposes on the individuals, and on the State.

I repeat that my particular concern is for the children's welfare. It is clear from many studies undertaken in respect of children and divorce that they come out of it very badly and that their whole psychological make-up is severely affected not simply at the time of the divorce but all through their lives. The motives of adults in seeking divorce may be many and varied but the child has no part in it. The child is the innocent victim and is entitled to protection. If we are to ensure that they get this protection, those who concern themselves with divorce should be fully informed.

With regard to the referendum, when we were in Government we introduced legislation because this was our responsibility as a government. It is now the responsibility of the Coalition Government to bring forward proposals in respect of a referendum. As other speakers on this side of the House have said, when these proposals are introduced we will study them carefully and then come to a decision.

I have deliberately confined myself to the social problems in respect of what should be done to help people with marriage problems and the difficulties for children in the case of divorce. I came to my conclusions from my own observations of life at home and abroad. I have endeavoured to put my points as calmly, reasonably and sincerely as a I can. I should like to congratulate all those who were involved in the preparation of the report. They have done excellent work and I recommend the report to the public generally because it is very worthwhile. I am glad to have had the opportunity to express my views this morning.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  It has become very [748] fashionable in recent times to say that this House rarely discusses matters which are relevant to the real needs of society. In the past two weeks that has not been the case. We have had the historic discussion on the Anglo-Irish agreement, a debate which generally rose above the general level of what I have experienced in three years in this House, and today we are discussing something which is very relevant to the future development of our society and the lives of a great many of our people.

What is being said here will be listened to by a great number of people for whom this is not an academic subject. These people's lives are in misery because of the failure of their marriages. They want to remarry in good faith, but legally cannot do so. We will also be listened to by the many people who got Church annulments but who still live in an uncertain nebulous legal position. The one thing these people do not want, and should not get, is for Members of this House to fudge the issue or to dodge making up our minds on what should be done.

At this stage in the history of the State and the circumstances of our society it would be irresponsible to do that. Certainly what those people do not deserve is that at the end of the debate they only get soft words, comforting platitudes, expressions of concern and further delay.

I welcome the debate and the fact that the Whips are giving so much time to this debate. I welcome the freedom which is inherent in the debate. We are dealing with an issue where we as politicians have a clear duty and responsibility. We have a duty to inform ourselves and a duty to face up to the issue and take decisions to resolve the problems. I would stress a point made by Deputy Andrews and by the Minister, that these are not party problems. Marriage breakdown is not confined by party boundaries or by regional or secretarian boundaries. I appeal to the Members of the House not to make this a party issue. There are strong and honest convictions on both sides of the major question involved.

We have just heard a deeply [749] researched totally honest speech from Deputy Faulkner. I would take issue with him on the central issue but I would not doubt the sincerity or depth of his convictions. Neither side has a monopoly of right or wisdom but politicians will not easily be forgiven nor will they deserve forgiveness if this debate degenerates into the divisive and nasty atmosphere of the amendment campaign and to a lesser extent of the contraception issue. Nobody on any side of the House wishes to confront a situation where the fanaticism which lurks so close to the surface in certain parts of society is given free rein and great hatreds are allowed to surface and are given the cloak of respectability. Politicians on all sides saw during those two campaigns that type of fanaticism and do want to go through it again. We can only control what happens here. There are others outside, including Church leaders, who have their responsibility to see that the debate remains at the level of reason, tolerance and understanding. We, at least, can control our destiny and give a lead in this matter.

The people on both sides of the major issue would applaud the three main party leaders if they came together and agreed that this is an issue of fundamental importance, a question of conscience and that there should be no question of Whips being involved. We could come back to the idea which people like Kevin O'Higgins and other people had at the founding of the State that this House should be a true assembly where debate on many issues would be open and free and where people are free to come and speak their minds in accordance with their informed consciences and where they would be free to vote accordingly. When we talk about a free vote, it has to be a free vote all round. There is no point in having a free vote confined to one side of the House. I am talking about a genuine free vote on an issue of major conscience. The battered image of this House and the image of politicians which has taken such a knocking in recent years would be to some extent restored in the eyes of the decent thinking people if we begin our debate at this level and if it is allowed to [750] continue in this way throughout. I appeal to the members of Fianna Fáil, most of whom have strong views on this subject and many of whom have expressed those views coherently and honestly, to exercise pressure on their leadership to see that the debate is conducted under these circumstances. I know there will not be a problem in Fine Gael and I am sure the Labour Party would agree to such an arrangement. It would be seen as an acceptance of a new maturity by this House.

On the question of the report, it is an excellent report which shows a deep sense of commitment on the part of the people who worked on it and which shows the research and reading that went into putting this report together. For those involved in the committee it was a learning process. Those who took part in the committee came out with a better understanding of the problems and a more humane and open approach, in almost all cases, to the questions concerned. Just as Deputies privileged to be members of the New Ireland Forum attained a new understanding of the complexity of the problems of Northern Ireland so the participants in this committee experienced a learning process.

I pay tribute to the chairman of that Committee, Deputy Willie O'Brien, who was an inspired choice of chairman. Deputy O'Brien brought to the workings of the committee qualities of great decency, commonsense and humanity and deserves credit for the fact that the committee reported and for the fact that the document is such a constructive and understanding one. Coming up against the evidence which the members of the committee heard and which was published cannot but have profoundly influenced and affected those involved. I am glad that the terms of reference of the committee were wide so that much which was constructive and aimed at the strengthening of family life could be spelled out in detail. I sincerely hope that the recommendations made in this report will be acted upon quickly and constructively and that it will not be left to gather dust on some shelf, as another report, another [751] problem resolved. I hope especially that one of the major recommendations, that there should be a referendum, will be acted upon without delay.

We can talk at length about the specific recommendations in the report, and Deputy Faulkner did so with great authority, but the nub of the report and of the debate has to focus on the question of civil divorce — whether civil divorce should be available, under what circumstances and what form it should take. Civil divorce should be available. Any move to introduce civil divorce will have my strong and active support.

There is a problem of widespread marital breakdown, a real growing problem. The figures as to its extent are hard to come by, but hardly a family has not a member or friend affected by marital breakdown either in the sense of marriages which have broken down, where the couple have separated, or where the people involved are going through a living hell of traumatic and bitter unhappiness, where what began as a great adventure of hope has turned into a nightmare of hatred. We as ordinary citizens are aware of this. As public representatives, although we are not very well qualified to advise, people come to us to tell us of a nightmare situation, a living hell from which there is no escape. The fact that marriage fails is a major trauma for any normal, sensitive person. There is a sense of personal failure, sorrow, grief, guilt. To say to the person concerned, who may have 30 or 40 years of life expectancy ahead, “No, you have not the right, you cannot remarry or if you do you will be breaking the law”, is to say a number of things. It is to say to the person that this is a situation from which there is no get out, that the person is condemned to a life of isolation and loneliness in which he or she will almost certainly retreat into himself or herself full of bitterness with a great sense of wasted possibilities. That happens to a majority of people, maybe through no fault of their own, but often some fault is involved. After a couple of years, perhaps, when the trauma has subsided [752] people may feel that they would like to begin a new relationship but they know that under the present situation they would be living under a cloud, in a legal quagmire. They would be made to feel that there is something unacceptable, illegal, unwholesome about their situation which in turn will give them a great sense of insecurity and will raise doubts about whether they could or should have children and about the legal status of those children, all of which in turn will put extra unacceptable strains on that relationship.

A great deal has been said — much of it genuine and some of it accurate — about the horrific consequences for the social order of the availability of civil divorce. Examples from other countries have been given. Last week Deputy Flynn spoke with a great deal of self-righteousness and some elements of imagination about the social consequences where divorce is available. We need a sense of perspective about this. In some contributions when people have taken this line about the effect on society I have noted something very smug and self-righteous about some of these comparisons. We as a country sometimes lag very far behind those countries that we castigate easily in this context. We lag behind in providing the humane standards of a decent, caring society. It is easy to take examples and some of those cited have been spurious. Comparison with Las Vegas and some of the more off beat American states are not really relevant or accurate. Are we as a people more moral, honest or caring than the Swedes, the Germans or the English to whom civil divorce has been available for a considerable time? I do not believe we are, nor do I believe that the quality of marriage, of the marriages which work, the overall quality of married and family life in this country, is necessarily all that superior to what it is in those countries. Here as in those countries there are good and bad marriages. The basic difference is that in the countries I have mentioned the fact that marriage can and does break down is admitted and there is an attempt to face up to the consequences of that. [753] The fact is admitted, action is possible and action is taken. We should and must learn from the example and experience of other countries. To do otherwise would be foolish and unforgivable.

There are many kinds of divorce law operating in the different countries even in the EC. In some cases the consequences of easy divorce have been adverse. That is not the case in other countries where the consequences have been very different. We have a duty to study not just those countries which support the case we want to make to back up our convictions but to look also at the countries where the provision of divorce has not led to any breakdown of society or a coarsening of the values of society and has in many cases allowed people the possibility after their first mistake of remaking their lives and building up a deep, enriching marriage. Very often the existence of divorce has allowed children out of the hellish experience of parents filled with hatred. It has allowed them, not to see the happiness of a good, full marriage, but at least to see each of their parents as a human being, even if they are living separately, and to understand the nature of the problem.

I was very moved the other morning listening to the Gay Byrne radio programme to hear a young girl — about 12 years old and very mature for that age — talk about her parents, the break up of their marriage, how she understood why her parents were unable to live together, how she loved both of them and how her life had been enriched and improved by the fact they had split up and that each loved her in his or her own way. She could love each of them by virtue of the fact that they were not living together in an atmosphere of tension leading, perhaps, to hatred. It was a moving interview. Maybe she was not typical, but such a situation is far more common, more prevalent than people are prepared to accept or give credit to.

In saying that we have a duty to learn from the experience of other countries we should rid ourselves of our insularity and some of the humbug which surrounds the debate when we compare ourselves [754] with other countries. There are good things to learn and mistakes to learn from. I appeal to the people who take my view and those who take Deputy Faulkner's view that we should at least look at areas where divorce procedures have had consequences which are not altogether negative and which in many cases have been beneficial.

The second argument, dwelt on at some length by Deputy Faulkner, is the spectre of easy divorce, divorce on demand. Deputy Faulkner made the plausible case that, while divorce will come in in a very limited way if it comes in, there is always the possibility that the frontiers will be pushed back further and further until there is divorce on demand. To accept that argument is to have very little faith in ourselves because it will be ourselves and our successors here who ultimately will decide what the limits and frontiers will be.

There is nothing inevitable or inexorable about the push towards easier and easier divorce. As a people we are deeply conscious of the moral values underlying our society. We are deeply conscious of the conservative nature of our society. We are, and our successors will continue to be, deeply conscious of the strength of the attachment of people to marriage and the institution of marriage. We are having very little faith in ourselves, in our own integrity and in the generations who will follow us if we accept the argument that divorce now will inevitably degenerate into a Las Vegas type of divorce by roulette or divorce by demand.

Nobody who favours the introduction of civil divorce here is asking for easy divorce. Everybody, and every group favouring the introduction of civil divorce, has been clear and emphatic about this point. Anybody who wants to see the introduction of civil divorce here has said clearly that it should be a slow and careful process, that it should involve conciliation and reconciliation procedures, that it should be invested with all the solemnity and certainty of the law. All of that is clear and beyond dispute.

I wonder sometimes if those people who talk so easily and glibly about [755] divorce on demand listen to what they are saying. There are people in our society, and in every society, who for psychological or emotional reasons, or reasons of sub-normal intelligence or emotional retardation, probably incapable of forming any real relationship, for whom the normal demands and moral standards of a marriage are things they are incapable of grasping, but yet they get married and might be seen as candidates for easy divorce. However, I am not talking about those people. Such people have very real problems. The Catholic Church in its own procedures recognises the existence of such people. That Church is humane and understanding in its dealings with those people but those people are not typical. They have their own problems and we must be caring about them and take them into account but they are not the type of people we are talking about today. Instead, we are talking about normal people who have taken a decision that their marriage has irretrievably broken down.

I am probably the only person, or maybe one of two people, in the House who can speak from personal experience on a matter like this. When a decision comes to end a marriage it is a deeply traumatic and painful one. The decision is taken because in good faith two people decide that there is no other way. That decision for the people involved emotionally is probably the most draining experience they will ever go through. Psychologically it leaves scars which will never heal. In personal terms it is for the persons concerned to admit to personal failure in probably the biggest undertaking of their lifetime. Socially for the people concerned the outcome is disruptive. Financially for the people concerned it is usually crippling. They are the factors that go into the taking of a decision that a marriage must be brought to an end.

There is also the factor of the future of the children and people who love their children may feel that it is in the interests of the children that the marriage be broken. That is a decision that nobody [756] will take lightly and will cause the people concerned months and years of discussion, soul searching, agony and misery. For people to say that the decision to end a marriage is an easy one, that it is one that is taken lightly, is to ignore the basis of any marriage, the basis of the relationship. To talk about divorce being an easy option is, frankly, to be glib, insensitive and not to be particularly honest. I hope that in the debate we will hear very little of that type of talk especially since everybody who is advocating the introduction of divorce is saying that it should not be other than a careful, cautious, judicial process with all sorts of safeguards built in.

I should now like to come to the question of the Catholic Church and its role in the current debate. The Catholic Church here in its own handling of problems of marital breakdown is beyond doubt humane and caring. It operates without reference to social status or to a person's financial background. The people involved are genuinely committed to resolving the problems which face them. Many marriages are annulled, yet the question which faces me is the insistence of the official Church that there can be no change in our civil law. Surely the Church authorities must know the legal anomalies and problems which flow from the present position. It is not necessary to spell out those problems. They are clear and the Church is aware of them, yet the Church refuses to publicly recognise that its present practices which are availed of in good faith and with a great sense of gratitude by the people concerned run counter to the law of the land, not in a sense of being illegal but in a sense of running counter to the spirit of the law of the land. It is a status quo which the Church leaders emphatically want maintained.

The problems which flow from the present ambiguity are well documented. The Church leaders must also know that the present position discriminates against the deeply held convictions of the members and leaders of other Churches here, Churches which allow members to accept divorce in certain regulated circumstances. [757] Those Church leaders have made their views known over and over again. They made their views known at the New Ireland Forum and in various submissions. Surely in an age of ecumenism, in an age where leaders of Christian Churches are committed to the burying of age old differences, they must be aware of the sense of discrimination and unfairness which this induces in the members of other churches. The Church leaders must know from the experience in Northern Ireland that the provision of civil divorce has not led to a breakdown in morality and has not weakened family life.

Certainly, in Northern Ireland it has not led to a huge rush by Catholics to obtain divorce. The institution of marriage there is very little weaker or different from what pertains here. I wonder why the bishops are so much afraid that the provision of the same facilities in this part of the country would lead to things being significantly different.

I appeal to the Hierarchy to re-examine their stand on three grounds, first, the anomolies and problems caused by the fact that Church law is more liberal and more flexible than State law. Surely, at the very least, the law of the State should have the same flexibility. I would oppose very strongly the writing into State law of the law of the Catholic or any other Church, as suggested in the report by the Committee on the Constitution in 1967. I would oppose it very strongly for a variety of reasons, many of which have to do with the question of relations between North and South, but also simply because it would be wrong that the law of any one Church, any Church, should be written into the law of the State. Nonetheless, the State at least has the right to the same degree of flexibility and liberality which the Catholic Church affords to its people at present.

Secondly, I appeal to the Hierarchy to re-examine their position in view of the obvious denial of rights under this heading to those who are not members of the Catholic Church. We are a pluralist society. All of us in this House are republicans and want to see the total separation [758] of all Churches from the State. Our marriage laws, no more than any other laws, must never be allowed to impose the point of view of one tradition — in this case a restricted version of the point of view of that tradition. We must never allow that to happen in a pluralist republic.

The third reason for my appeal is in the light of what has happened in Northern Ireland. That is the best and most real point of comparison if we are seeking to examine the consequences of the introduction of civil divorce into this country. There are many issues on which I agree with Deputy Glenn, but on one fundamental point in this debate I find myself totally and fundamentally in agreement with her. I believe that there should be a referendum on this issue, that the people should be consulted and given the right to make up their minds on this matter which affects certainly every town and village in this country. If there is to be a referendum, that referendum will be preceded by a full major debate conducted in this House and through the various elements of the media, a debate conducted in every parish hall and by every debating society. There is a need for that sort of debate.

The report produced under the chairmanship of Deputy Willie O'Brien has brought forth a great deal of evidence upon which an informed debate can take place. There is an obligation at this stage to hear all points of view and have all arguments fully threshed out. If that happens, the genuine fears and convictions that many people hold may well be shown to be groundless. Irish people, by and large, when faced with a particular case of marriage breakdown, are usually prepared to be flexible but, when asked to agree to a general ordinance, perhaps flowing from a situation similar to that case on which they can be flexible, sensible, humane and understanding, there is a reluctance.

We are a conservative people and we have genuine fears that the introduction of divorce could lead to the breakdown of marriage, the coarsening of family life [759] and relationships in the entire community. With a full debate threshing out the issues in public, a new tolerance will emerge and a new understanding which would allow us, with a fair degree of consensus, to bring about changes which would help to resolve some of the problems that I have mentioned and to create a more caring society than, at least in this area, we have at present.

As a people, we certainly have our faults, but, by and large, especially on questions of human relationships, we are fair minded. The intolerance and bigotry which were so much a part of our literature and the reality of Irish life in the twenties to fifties have gone. We are a younger and, in spite of the recession, a more outward looking people, more optimistic. Much of the old repression and bigotry, many of the fears have gone in the past 20 to 30 years. We are a forgiving society. We all know people in small villages and towns who have their peccadilloes, who are living lives very different from the norm, but most societies in these places are very capable of accepting such people and making them a part of the overall community. We are a forgiving, humane type of people. For these reasons, I believe that the time has come to consult the people directly on this issue. Let us then live by the verdict of the people as expressed in the conditions of 1986, rather than by a verdict expressed by one part of a detailed comprehensive Constitution put to the people over 40 years ago, in a very different type of society, with very different problems and perspectives.

Finally, let me appeal once again to the three party leaders. The people, on whatever side of the issue they stand, would applaud if they came together and recognised this issue for what it is, an issue manifestly of conscience, with enormous moral dimensions, with deeply held, fundamental convictions on both sides. Let the three party leaders together remove the party Whips and allow free debate and free discussion in this House on that issue. This House would then be fulfilling its real purpose. It would be a [760] national assembly in the fullest sense of the words and would be doing a public service. A more balanced, more honest, wiser outcome would result and the people would thank us for what we have done.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly  Zoom on Liam Skelly  I am glad to have an opportunity to contribute briefly on this subject, not particularly on the report of the Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown, which I must say in all honesty is very much a smokescreen. As I am not one for hiding behind smokescreens of any kind, I certainly have no desire to hide behind this one.

The Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown, as has repeatedly been said, met for 18 months. There were 700 written submissions and 24 oral submissions. Finally, out of exhaustion and not finding any other place to hide, they had to produce their report and end their deliberations. They then made an arrangement whereby the three Chief Whips decided to have a Dáil discussion on the report of the committee in the form of statements. There is no formal Government motion on the agenda and no vote.

In The Irish Times of 8 November 1985 this procedure was described as limiting the embarrassment to both the Government and Fianna Fáil and preventing a recurrence of the scenes in the Seanad where Fine Gael voted against Labour over the holding of a referendum within the lifetime of the Government and Fianna Fáil refused to publicly support or oppose the report of the Committee on Marriage Breakdown. It was said that the arrangement would also ensure that no embarrassing amendments could be put down by Independents or by The Workers' Party. The report of the Committee on Marriage Breakdown said that a referendum should be held in relation to the question of whether the Oireachtas should be empowered to introduce divorce legislation.

I submit that the committee funked the issue and did not make a recommendation. Now the Opposition are lying in [761] wait ready to bushwhack any form of legislation, even that permitting a referendum. I submit that that is leading from behind: there goes the mob, I am its leader and therefore I must follow. I was glad to note that, in the past couple of weeks, the Leader of the Opposition got that wrong. It does not always pay to follow the mob. In this instance we need to lead from the front.

In the past few weeks here there was an attempt by a Deputy to introduce two Bills, one for a referendum and the other on divorce. The major parties decided not to allow a free vote on the issue and to oppose it. My party decided they would allow a free vote. I took a stand on that vote and was generally criticised for so doing. When I brought this to the attention of my critics — the fact that it was a free vote — I was told that we have more or less decided to abstain. Therefore it was free but it was not really free.

Then the proposition of a referendum has been rejected, it having been decided that the people should not be given an opportunity of deciding whether legislation should be introduced on this subject. Perhaps it is, as my colleague has just said, that this House feels confident to introduce legislation and that the people, in turn, should have confidence in it so doing.

I should like to quote from The Sunday Tribune of 3 November in relation to those Bills, where it was said:

The furore within Fine Gael about Michael O'Leary's temerity in presuming to act as a legislator underlines the extent to which our parliamentary system has degenerated into fatuity. The expulsion of Des O'Malley from Fianna Fáil for speaking his mind on republicanism did likewise.

The combination of our rigid party system with the arrangement whereby the executive is both chosen from and dependent for its day to day existence on the legislature, has effectively robbed the legislature of any independent function. Parliament is now [762] almost entirely a creature of government. No initiative of any consequence can be undertaken in parliament without the consent of government and no exercise of independent legislative initiative.

The only meaningful role which TDs perform is to elect party leaders and this is done invariably in secret, which means that TDs are largely unaccountable.

The function of the Legislature is to lead in response to needs. If we are to await a consensus of any topic before putting it to the people, that is not leading. If one were to follow that argument to its logical conclusion probably one would find — after an atrocity, such as the Birmingham or Harrod bombings — that if there was a referendum held for the re-introduction of capital punishment very likely it would be accepted. But, six months later, if there were to be another referendum held for the removal of capital punishment, probably it also would be accepted. The same thing might happen yet again after another atrocity. If we were to wait until the time is ripe and then slip something past the people, that would not be legislating responsibly.

There was the example given by Senator Michael Higgins in his speech in the Seanad on the abolition of slavery that was viciously resisted by the opponents of freedom — those who wanted to retain slavery — when it was first introduced. The same could be applied to hanging. In this instance I do not see what is wrong with seeking people's opinions, particularly considering the procedures adopted in this Legislature in relation to other Bills that have come before the House. One might quote the examples of the Criminal Justice Act, the Companies Bill, the Bill on the abolition of civil juries, the Lotteries Bill and many others not fully debated by Members and on which Members are not consulted prior to their introduction. This is particularly pertinent in regard to the provisions of Bills which can have such far-reaching effects on the nation as a whole. That is no argument for entrusting [763] the handling of legislation on divorce to the Legislature. Perhaps there is an educational process necessary here. One should not worry unduly about whether such legislation will be defeated. If it is of such far-reaching consequence that it will fundamentally affect our society for such a long time to come is it not only right that we should have a full and frank debate on the subject? If it is being genuinely discussed by people outside the House, then we shall not have the charade such as happened within the Committee on Marriage Breakdown for the last 18 months, when they did not reach any decision, avoided taking a decision while, at the same time, endeavouring to appear credible to the people who elected them by pretending to face up to the fact when they had not. This culminated in its being introduced in the form of statements in the House.

On the first day on which this debate took place there was a desperate scurrying around the House looking for Members to speak. The general public may not have realised that this debate fell practically three or four times on the first day because of lack of speakers. That is an indication of the amount of interest there is in such a serious topic affecting the lives of so many. Some people have spoken eloquently about and seemed concerned at the damage it is having on men, women and children, the terrible hardship, indeed the hell of the lives they are leading as a consequence of marriage breakdown. That is not an honest position for Members to adopt and is certainly not a responsible one. It should be thrown over to the people without delay. I do not think anybody need worry about the result of a referendum because it would enable every individual to have a say and would be much more democratic than having it left to the Members of this House. As each day goes past they are proving, by their approach, that they are not suited to handling this topic. If they are not suited, give it to the people and let them decide.

While I respect Deputy Manning's contribution and the sentiments which it contained, [764] as well as the sincerity with which he delivered it, the evidence does not show that we are a humane, forgiving or tolerant people, as he described us. We bear grudges, we can be very inhumane and we are very intolerant.

There are reasons for having public discussion. When we reviewed the operation of the criminal law over the past 100 years during the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill, the topic was not given over to the people to discuss, even in the form of a White Paper. The topic of marriage breakdown affects the lives of almost every family in the State and should have the widest discussion.

Certainly there are elements in the report which are illuminating and helpful to anybody participating in a debate. Paragraph 7.8.19 states:

The Committee feels that it is inevitable in the context of the retention of the current constitutional position in relation to divorce that many adults, whose marriage have irretrievably broken down, will form stable permanent relationships with other men and women and, that the parties to such relationships and the children to such relationships, will continue to lack any adequate legal status and protection. The parties to such relationships will be unable to remarry even though they may wish to do so and this fact, at least in their eyes, will in all probability appear to be harsh, unnecessary and unjust.

Paragraph 7.8.17 states:

The Committee recognises that if the current law remains unchanged there will be a significant number of persons, whose marriages have broken down, who are obliged to resort to alternative forms and mechanisms in second relationships, in order to extend the appearance of a “marriage” to their relationship.

It is necessary to face this issue head on. We have discussed it for too long. The night Deputy Michael O'Leary's Bill was brought into the House and overwhelmingly rejected was the night the great liberal revolution was seen to end [765] or perhaps never to have been. For the committee to adopt the pose that there is no answer is irresponsible. We need to get on with it. The job of the committee was to consider the protection of marriage and family life and to examine the problems which follow the breakdown of marriage and to report to the Houses of the Oireachtas thereon.

We need to do more than just pay lip service to the importance of marriage and the family. We need to provide better support for the institution of marriage and there are three main ways in which this can be done. The first is by providing better education for marriage; the second is by providing better material support for marriage; and the third is by providing better conciliation and counselling services. There are two main areas in which we can improve education for marriage. We can provide education with respect to the duties and obligations that parenthood confers on both men and women. It is particularly important that boys at school should be made more aware of the duties they will have as fathers. It is no longer acceptable that men should see their role as being breadwinners with no direct input to the day-to-day care of their children. That is not to say that there are not many very good Irish fathers who play a major role in the daily care of their children but there are too many who look upon the care of the children as women's work. After work these men either take themselves off to he pub or perhaps they are workaholics who spend most of their days and evenings immersed in their work, leaving their wives alone to cope with the children. Is it any wonder that in such cases marriages run into difficulties?

The second area where education with respect to marriage can be improved is by providing instruction for young men and women with respect to relationships. One of the submissions to the committee was by a psychiatrist who said that in addition to the three Rs a fourth R should be added — relationships. This is more important now than ever because the nature of marriage is changing from the more traditional roles to a more egalitarian arrangement where there is shared [766] responsibility in relation to all aspects of marriage and family life. In this modern type of marriage communication between couples is very important. We cannot provide people with a plan so that they will be able to relate easily to their spouse and other people around them. No matter what preparations we make, there will always be those who find it easy to communicate and those who find it very difficult. However, we can attempt to teach people to be more aware of the needs and feelings of others and by so doing provide for the formation of more stable marriages.

Support for marriage must also come on a material level. Particular attention should be paid to all new housing developments. It is important that the design of estates should be taken into account as well as the design of individual houses. Marriage breakdown is rife in badly planned areas lacking in facilities, amenities and opportunities. No new housing development should be built without community services being built concurrently. The bad design of many new estates can intensify the isolation and loneliness a woman may feel when she goes from the work situation where she is surrounded by her friends to being in a house with a young child, very often without any place to meet with others in the same situation. For the umpteenth time in this House I say to Dublin Corporation, “Please listen a little, it will help a lot”. They continue to add to the human misery and tragedy of people in their approach to housing and refuse to learn anything from the past.

There are other examples of legislation where enormous help could have been given in the area of marriage breakdown if the Bills had been planned somewhat better. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can lead to great stresses on a new marriage when people are already experiencing the strain of adjusting to living with another person. It is not sufficient for our Constitution to recognise the important role played by women working in the home. We should also provide some benefits for these women. For instance, a parent caring full time for [767] children should be eligible for optical and dental benefits. In addition, the tax system should be altered to give a more realistic tax free allowance to families with children.

We should attempt to provide a national marriage counselling service to help those couples whose marriages are in difficulties. A marriage counselling service helps a couple to examine their relationship and hopefully to reach a new understanding of that relationship which permits them to get over any difficulties they might be experiencing. The voluntary services provided by bodies such as the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council and the Marriage Counselling Service are very good and I do not want anyone to think that, by calling for the establishment of a national network of counselling services, I want to detract in any way from the work they have done and continue to do.

I should like to support the call made by Mr. Darragh Connolly of the CMAC when giving evidence to the joint committee for support at every level of Government service — Department of Social Welfare, Department of Health and Department of Education — for a national marriage counselling service to be available. By so doing, people could avail of these services before it is too late, before they have got into the situation where the marriage is broken down already with little hope of reconciliation. However, when we have provided better preparation for marriage and better material support for marriage and family life, we will still be left with people whose marriages have already broken down and with those whose marriages may break down in the future.

Regardless of whether the people vote in a referendum to have divorce, we must accept that people will still experience irretrievable breakdown of their marriage and will separate with consequent serious repercussions for their children. We already have some 8,000 women in receipt of deserted wife's allowance and these women have about 14,000 children dependent on them. I would be very concerned, [768] if the people voted for divorce, that every provision for the welfare of the children should be made. However, I should like to draw attention to some of the research which has been carried out on the effect of marital breakdown on child development.

Research carried out by M. Rutter in Britain indicates that it is not so much the actual separation or divorce which adversely affects children but rather the tension and discord which precede separation or divorce or which continue in the absence of separation or divorce. This is contained in Parent-Child Separation: Psychological Effects on Children, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (1971) Vol. 12 page 233. Other research carried out by G.R. Leslie in The Family in Social Context, Journal of Child Pschology and Psychiatry, Vol. 12 page 715 reached the same conclusion. I quote:

Several studies have shown that broken homes and juvenile delinquency are associated. However, the correlation appears to be with all forms of broken homes including those that are emotionally broken but structurally intact, and not just with divorce — broken homes. ...Predictions of dire effects of divorce upon children appear not to be warranted.

The Canadian Law Reform Commission suggested some basic principles designed to protect children involved in divorce: (1) that there should be a statutory duty imposed on the court to refuse a divorce unless it is satisfied that suitable arrangements are made for the maintenance, custody, care and upbringing of the children; (2) appropriate counselling services should be available to assist the parents and children to adjust to changes in circumstances and who work towards achieving satisfactory solutions and diagnostic and investigative services should be available to assist the court in reaching the appropriate disposition; (3) arrangements for the custody, care and upbringing of children should be based solely on their welfare and best interests; (4) children should have a right to be heard with respect regarding the arrangements [769] for their custody, care and upbringing. Maybe the Canadian procedure is demanding more of legal procedures than they are able to produce but at least significant provisions for the welfare of children were considered.

It is clear that, although there is, rightly, great concern over the position of children involved in divorce, there is no reason for us to be complacent about the present procedures for safeguarding the welfare of children involved in marital breakdown. At present we have legislation which deals with disputes as to the custody and upbringing of children, the maintenance of dependent spouses and children and the protection of spouses and children at risk of violence and neglect. However, we do not have a proper forum for deciding on these matters. We need special family courts with judges who have a particular interest in family law and special training in the social and psychological effects and family law. The court should have available to it some form of counselling, reconciliation and conciliation services and the court procedure should be inquisitorial rather than adversarial.

The present situation, as described by Miss Paula Scully in the evidence she gave to the joint committee where she said that petitioners frequently came across cases where judges refuse or do not want to deal with family cases, is just not acceptable. In Britain a report of the Committee on One-Parent Families (Finer Report) presented to Parliament in July 1974 made recommendations for the setting up of family courts.

The Australian Family Law Act, 1975, by way of example, provides, inter alia that, for appointment to the family law court, a person must be a suitable person to deal with matters of family law by reason of training, experience and personality. As well as having family courts, we also need a properly constituted conciliation service. When a marriage breaks down irretrievably that fact must be acknowledged and couples must be helped to peacefully negotiate their continuing responsibilities to one another and to their children through conciliation. The aim of a conciliation service is [770] to allow these people to come to mutually acceptable decisions regarding children, maintenance and property. It allows the couple to develop a new relationship, not as spouses, but as parents and friends who may differ over fundamental issues but can agree over safeguarding the interests of these children.

However, when we have provided all these services and every facility possible for safeguarding marriage, there will still be cases where people's marriages have irretrievably broken down. They wish to have legal recognition of that fact and to have the freedom to remarry. Society can deny them the right to remarry but we still cannot prevent the breakdown from occurring. Nor can we prevent those whose marriages have broken down from forming a second relationship. If we choose to reject any form of divorce we are leaving these people without any legal protection in the second union and any children of the second union are also left without legal protection.

The problems associated with this are bound to grow over the years. We can choose to ignore the problem of marital breakdown and the terrible problems that people are suffering. However, by ignoring the problems people have we are not improving society; we are just alienating a minority. In doing so we need not concern ourselves with the numbers of thousands involved in this; we should be more concerned about the validity of the right of these people.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  It is sometimes said we have no divorce here but, strictly speaking, that is not true. We have divorce Irish-style which falls roughly into three categories. The first category could be called luxury category A. In that category the husband is well-to-do and of substantial means and, as a result of his happy financial situation, he is able to go to England or elsewhere and acquire a domicile there. That is a frequent occurrence. It does not do much for his spouse or his children because, for the most part, they are not in a position to resist the application which would involve legal action in England, obtaining English solrence [771] icitors, counsel and so on. Their position, financial stability and the rights of the children are not taken care of particularly well but nonetheless that kind of divorce is quite widely used here.

The second category of divorce in the loose sense is the position with regard to Church annulments, another kind of divorce Irish-style. I realise there is a technical distinction between even a Church annulment and a divorce but nonetheless the effect is that it enables the partners to remarry and many of them remarry in the civil arena. They acquire wives who are not recognised as such by the law of the land and they beget children who are not legitimate in accordance with the law of the land. Those wives, of whom there are many, and their children have no legal rights to protect them. They are denied the normal protection that applies to a legitimate spouse and children. Nonetheless it is a type of divorce Irish-style that is on the increase and is widely used.

The third category of divorce Irish-style is a situation where the husband deserts and goes off and lives with another woman. He sets up a relationship with her, they have children and for many years they live as a family unit in all but legality. That kind of set-up provides poor financial security for the former wife and her children and it does not provide any security at all for the spouse who lives with such a person or for the children of that union. Yet, again, this type of divorce Irish-style is incredibly widespread.

We have these pseudo divorce situations and apparently we are prepared quite happily to go along with them, ignoring the incredible hardship, difficulties and distress posed for so many thousands of our people. Considerable evidence was taken by the committee. I should like to pay tribute to the members of the committee who worked so hard over a prolonged period, to the staff and to all the people who came forward to give evidence to assist the committee in their work.

[772] Two extreme views are often put forward on the question of divorce. One extreme view is that divorce is some kind of panacea for the problems of broken marriages, that it will resolve across-the-board the problem of broken marriages. The second extreme view is that if we introduce divorce it will have nothing but dire consequences for normal family life. The truth is that neither view is correct. People who advocate divorce in certain confined and limited circumstances, as I do, do not suggest it will be a panacea for the problem of all broken marriages. I wish it were but it is not the case.

To say that the introduction of divorce will have dire consequences on family life is a remarkable assertion and it has been put forward with great force in this House. We have a serious problem of marital breakdown affecting thousands of people. The figure has been put at 70,000 people and yet we have no legal divorce. Having no legal divorce has not done very much for maintaining the family stability of those 70,000 people. The extent of the problem is quite substantial but let us not get carried away with numbers. It is still a small minority of the marriages contracted. Fortunately, the overwhelmingly majority of people who get married have happy marriages and it is only a small minority, relatively speaking, who are affected but they and their children suffer.

Public representatives who hold clinics come across many heartbreaking and tragic cases and one's heart goes out to the people in their suffering. I was appalled at the callousness of some of the contributions made even in this House when speakers airily waved away the tragedies and the appalling misery so many people are compelled to suffer. On the introduction of this motion one Minister of State said, “Divorce legislation should be postponed and the question considered in five or ten years time if there is still a lot of human suffering”. That kind of callous statement displaying such a lack of compassion appals me.

The issue affects only a small minority of people compared with the number of marriages contracted. Perhaps this is one [773] of the reasons this House has found it so difficult to stir itself into taking action that is so obviously needed. Would all those people whose marriages have broken irretrievably avail of divorce if divorce was available? Only a small proportion would avail of divorce procedure. Many families whose marriages have broken down would not avail of divorce because of their consciences or their religious beliefs. This is perfectly understandable. Nobody suggests that divorce should be compulsory.

As legislators we have a responsibility to minorities which to date, regrettably, we have failed to meet. The New Ireland Forum report touched on this at paragraph 5.26, page 27:

Civil and religious liberties and rights must be guaranteed and there can be no discrimination or preference in laws or administrative practices, on grounds of religious belief or affiliation; government and administration must be sensistive to minority beliefs and attitudes and seek consensus.

That is very well put and I would subscribe to it. In regard to catering for minorities, the matter is referred to in Mr. William Duncan's book, Divorce In The Irish Republic:

It is always difficult to stir up the political will necessary to change the law for the benefit of a minority, especially where that change runs counter to the current social teaching of the predominant Church. Nevertheless the respect and attention paid by a society to its minorities is a hallmark of its maturity and civilisation. Two things are asked of the majority, first that it have the wisdom to accept that the use of divorce by a minority would not endanger the institution of marriage, and second, that it have the compassion and will to bring about the necessary change in the law and the Constitution.

It has been argued many times that if divorce laws on any basis were brought in it would cause hardship to wives and [774] children, that it would encourage people to bring about breakdowns in their marriages. I do not accept that argument. The problem has been the breakdowns that have taken place and we must appreciate what is happening in many thousands of cases. We cannot blind ourselves and pretend that there have not been cases in which there have been desertions for years, the husbands having gone to live with other women and having children by them and established happy and permanent relationships. Why do we have to delude ourselves and pretend that marriages of that kind must be preserved and maintained? Such people are in a legal limbo, tied to marriages that in social reality do not exist. What causes the problems for the children? Is it the likelihood of divorce or the breakdown of marriages? It was put in a nutshell by Mons. Sheehy when he gave evidence to the Joint Committee. He said that it is not the availability of the nullity procedure that causes marriage breakdown but the lack of amity or affinity among the spouses.

During the debate here the point has been made that if divorce were made possible in any circumstances it would put wives at risk, that their husbands would threaten them with divorce and so on. The counter argument to it is that the reverse obtains, that wives in many cases are the victims of far more abuse, illtreatment and assault from husbands in the knowledge that they are tied to them and that they cannot get divorced. If we had a limited form of divorce my view is that it would contribute to the stability of family life by enabling de facto unions, many thousands of them, to be converted into valid marriages. Would that not be a contribution to family life?

It has been pointed out that when marriages break down economic problems arise, matters of maintenance for the spouses and children. Of course they do, but those problems arise whether there is divorce procedure or not. At present we have about 8,000 wives in receipt of the deserted wife's allowance, or benefit of one kind or another, but the absence of divorce closes off from many wives the [775] option of remarriage in which they would receive some form of financial security from the second union. Instead, they rely on the taxpayers for support.

The notion that divorce would have serious consequences for wives does not hold up when one looks at statistics in those countries which have divorce laws. They show that more wives bring divorce applications than husbands, indicating that it is a procedure of which wives, predominantly, avail and not husbands.

Of course, the circumstances in which divorce should be granted would have to be laid down with great care. Divorce should be difficult to obtain and very stringent proofs should have to be established to a court before a divorce could be granted. It should be compulsory for a conciliation and mediation procedure to be explored before a court could undertake a divorce application. Are there people who really believe that a divorce facility should not be granted in Ireland in any circumstances? There seems to be people who are of that view. Are there some who say that couples who have been granted a Church annulment but who are still married validly in the eyes of the law should not be entitled to a divorce? A referendum would be required to bring about a position where divorce in some circumstances would be permitted. The opinion polls and the soundings taken in recent years indicate clearly that there is a wish for a change in the law, for the abolition of the constitutional ban on divorce so as to provide for divorce in some circumstances. Before very long Members of the House will have an opportunity to indicate their views because a Labour Party Bill is to be introduced soon in that regard.

There has been reference to the position of the majority Church on this issue. My readings of the Church's comments overall are that the Church does not maintain that its doctrines should automatically become part of the civil law.

Another factor that contributes largely to marital breakdown are the economics involved. Lack of housing, bad housing, low incomes and unemployment are factors [776] which have to a large extent escaped in terms of sympathetic attention from our legislators in the past. The present law is a disgrace. It is prejudicial to people who do not have the means to go to England and obtain a divorce. It is inflexible and rigid as well as being uncaring and out of date. It is time that we faced up to the realities and did something to alleviate the appalling plight of so many people who find themselves locked into a position where they continue to suffer. One must ask what is the purpose of their suffering? What is achieved by their suffering? Can anyone indicate to me that all that suffering can be of help to anyone? The introduction of divorce legislation would bring about a tremendous transformation in the lives of the many couples and their children who are suffering because of marital breakdown. It would give those couples a second chance and some hope and comfort for the future.

Mrs. Glenn: Information on Alice Glenn  Zoom on Alice Glenn  The terms of reference of the committee were to consider the protection of marriage and family life. Almost without exception, every speaker to the debate so far has concentrated on discussing divorce and divorce spells the deathknell of marriage. It seems that there is a general acceptance of the relentless battering that our people have been subjected to in recent times in terms of their traditional values, so that now the people perceive this House almost as their enemy. The main thrust of this attack is centered on the family while most of our so-called social legislation seems to have the intent of causing the family grievous harm.

The issues of divorce, abortion and contraception — alternative lifestyles — are issues which when considered singly, are not nearly as deadly as they become when one takes the broader view and considers them from the point of view of the totality of the effects they would have. They then take on the appearance of a Trojan horse.

The cultural and political arguments surrounding these issues reflect a deep philosophical chasm between radically [777] distinct and diametrically opposed moral visions of our society. The central political question of this decade is which of these two competing moral visions of the family and of society will prevail and become the official orthodoxy through the power and authority of the State.

The struggle is between the Judeo-Christian ethic based on God-given eternal law and the secular humanist orthodoxy that rejects God and traditional values. In the secular humanist world, man, individually and collectively, has the absolute power based on purely human will and reason to determine all choices that will fulfil his wellbeing. In this sense the struggle for the family goes far beyond any partisan political view. The struggle for the family and its meaning is, at the most profound level, an undeclared civil war, the outcome of which will determine how this society defines itself. To that extent the matter before the House is of paramount importance.

As well as the consideration of the protection of the family and of family life, the committee were to examine the problems which follow marital breakdown. The fundamental guidelines for the State's obligation and duty towards marriage and the family are contained in Articles 41 and 42 of the Constitution. The clear thrust of these Articles is the recognition of the autonomy of the family, the rights of which are independent of and superior to this State, the imposition on the State of the duty of respecting family rights, of promoting the welfare of the family and the guarding of the institution of marriage which is essential to the existence of the family.

These two Articles effectively limit the State's jurisdiction because through its laws, the State must not put marriage at a disadvantage economically or financially or lower it in status or in public esteem. The State must not intrude on areas in which the family has the right to make its own decisions about, for example, such matters as the education of children. The State is prohibited expressly from passing any law purporting to dissolve marriage. The right to marriage which of its nature [778] is indissoluble, is the most basic right of the family, the most inalienable and imprescriptible right of all. Any tampering with the indissolubility of marriage means simply that marriage is being abolished and replaced by conditional cohabitation, in other words, legalised adultery. Legal opinion has confirmed that indissoluble marriage no longer exists in British civil law which provides for divorce.

While the State must not interfere with the family's rights, it has plenty to do in its own sphere which covers the practical support of marriage and the family. Because these institutions, while independent of the State, are the very basis of society and of this State itself, it is in the State's own interest to provide the families with the economic and financial resources they need to live in modest comfort and create a peaceful and orderly society.

Poverty, particularly when it affects children, causes domestic distress and discord with the risk of marital breakdown. How can parents be expected to fulfil their role in society if they are harassed daily by their inability to provide the basic food needed for proper nutrition, if meeting children's normal needs for shoes, clothing and school-books is a nightmare. It is the duty of the State, when regulating the distribution of national income, to allocate a just share to families, taking account of the number of children and other dependants, and maintaining the real value of family income as far as possible.

The committee cannot have been aware of the way in which over the last decade the State reduced its financial support for the family, not only in real terms but even in current cash figures. Some of the members of that committee were Ministers in Governments responsible for the reductions in family income. The reductions in tax and social welfare benefits were documented as far back as 1979 in an official publication entitled “Alternative Strategies for the Family”. Given the terms of reference to consider [779] the protection of marriage and the family, surely the committee had an obligation to concern themselves with State policy in the areas of tax and social welfare for which the State is solely responsible, and to recommend the removal of any injustice or hardship. In submissions made to the committee attention was directed to the injustice inflicted on the family by the reduction in the child tax free allowance to a mere £100, while the adult allowance was being increased and is now at £2,686, by the inadequacy of the children's allowance of £2.77 per week, and by the refusal of maternity and other benefits to married women unless they leave their homes and join the workforce.

In the first paragraph of the report the committee encouragingly emphasised the need to ensure that the social and legal infrastructure of the State should not work to increase the pressure which can be placed on marriage. The promise of this opening proved illusory because a few paragraphs later we find the committee literally running away from the obvious task of examining whether the State's infrastructure was operating to support or to harm the family. The committee blandly disavowed all responsibility on page 11 when they said:

... in considering how best the State can lead the way towards protecting marriage and family life, the Committee is conscious of the disturbing economic and social pressures which add to the interpersonal pressures which can arise in the course of a marriage. The Committee does not have the resources to engage in a detailed examination of these pressures and agreed that to do so would require research of a kind not envisaged in the Orders of Reference of the Committee and not, in any event, permitted by the real constraints which the schedule of work undertaken by the Committee dictated. The Committee urges that indepth studies be undertaken as a matter of urgency by the appropriate bodies.

[780]Minister of State at the Department of Labour (Mr. G. Birmingham): Information on George. M. Birmingham  Zoom on George. M. Birmingham  On a point of order, I am reluctant to interrupt Deputy Glenn. I know there is far from unanimity of opinion in my own party on this subject, but I did not realise it was necessary to give geographical expression to it by the presence in the Leader of the Opposition's seat of Deputy Shatter. While I welcome his attempts to help out the Opposition——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  That is not a point of order.

Mr. G. Birmingham: Information on George. M. Birmingham  Zoom on George. M. Birmingham  It is good of him to do the Opposition's work for them, but——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  Please allow Deputy Glenn to continue.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I felt it was important on an issue so sensitive and far reaching in importance to so many people that Deputies should be seen on all sides of the House showing an interest in this debate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  This is a very important and serious debate——

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I realise that and that is why I am sitting here. It is unfortunate that there is nobody on this side of the House who takes this issue sufficiently seriously——

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  May we hear from a Fine Gael backbencher?

Mrs. Glenn: Information on Alice Glenn  Zoom on Alice Glenn  I am quite happy to have Deputy Shatter take the place of the Leader of the Opposition. I do not know if that is a left-handed compliment——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  That is not a point of order.

Mrs. Glenn: Information on Alice Glenn  Zoom on Alice Glenn  I believe it is imperative that such an investigation should be carried out if we are to come to terms with exactly what the State's role is and how the State is protecting the family and marriage. It was a piece of camouflage on the part of the committee that they [781] took this course and ran away from reality. Married couples are concerned about providing food, clothing, heat and all the other essentials for their families.

I regret that the maternity grants for women have been removed, another instance of the insensitivity of the State in supporting the family. It is necessary that home help be provided for mothers who return home after three days confinement in maternity hospitals.

The suggestion that pubs should be open later and all day Sundays helps to undermine the family and encourages men to be out of the home when they should be spending time with their families and children at weekends.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  Excuse me Deputy, but I must tell Deputy Shatter that that is an inappropriate place for him to sit.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  As far as I know there is nothing in the Order of the House which specifies seating arrangements for different Members.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  When the Dáil reassembles after a general election a certain modus operandi is adopted. The Government and their supporters sit on one side and the Opposition sit on the other side. Unless you have changed sides, I take it you are still on the Government side of the House — I am only reminding you that you are not sitting on the proper side of the House as becomes a Government TD.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  It is appropriate that all Government TDs sit together, but I feel it appropriate that public attention should be drawn to the fact that not a single Member of the Opposition Party are taking this issue sufficiently seriously to be present in this House to listen to a serious and informed debate on an issue of major public importance.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  On a point of information, I was only advising you of the situation.

[782]Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I would be pleased to relinquish my position when some Member of the Opposition Party comes into the House.

Mrs. Glenn: Information on Alice Glenn  Zoom on Alice Glenn  The failure of the committee to engage in these aspects of State policy which affect the lives of all married couples, the bread and butter issues, leaves a very serious void in the report. The absence of any clear exposition or recommendation as to how the State should act to provide a proper economic and financial structure for the family vitiates the whole report. It was perhaps easier for the committee to side-step the nitty gritty of reality which families have to face every day and to float away on philosophical and sociological concepts about marriage problems. This, as we all known is a notoriously speculative area and what might be all right today could be taboo tomorrow.

The bulk of the committee's report is taken up in devising a massive State bureaucracy, a legal system which is to be loaded onto the backs of the long suffering families. Some of the recommendations could raise constitutional issues. The proposal to incorporate education for marriage in the educational system and the proposal to raise the marriage age, which has a lot to recommend it, would require debate in this House. They are not just simple matters.

As this juggernaut of State intervention in marriage rolls through the pages of the report I can imagine a bewildering array of bureaucratic functionaries crowding in upon the poor families. There will be counsellors, mediators, social workers, welfare officers, child psychiatrists, lawyers and new courts. I hope the House will not think ill of me when I say that considerable expense will be incurred for the unfortunate taxpayer if the recommendations of the report are put into effect, to the benefit of all the bureaucrats who would be involved. The idea of this host of functionaries crowding in on the unfortunate families would be funny if it were not a cause of grave apprehension. Many modern officials tend to have ideas at variance with the moral code and faith professed by 95 per [783] cent of married people and they can do more harm than good. I have been told by separated partners that family rows could have been healed if the parties had been left to themselves or to the assistance of the extended family and were it not for the intervention of well-meaning outsiders.

This report may be a lawyer's dream but it could turn into a nightmare for the client and we could end up with more officials than clients. Men have often come to me in distress because they no longer have access to their homes and families, saying that if they had avoided the legal profession their problems would be sorted out. This is a very sorry state, with due respect to Deputy Shatter who is occupying the Opposition benches.

Deputy Taylor said that there were 70,000 marriages in trouble but there is no statistical corroboration for that figure. It is also said that we have 36,000 permanently separated couples, again without corroboration. The committee did not look for corroboration of those figures. The only survey of any worth was the Labour survey carried out recently which covered 147,000 people, or 4 per cent of the population. This was a much larger sample than samples covered in any other opinion poll on the matter. It was probably one of the biggest opinion polls in the State. We cannot disregard a survey carried out at the behest of the State. From this sample it was estimated that the total number of married persons who were deserted or divorced, or whose marriages had been annulled, or whose spouse usually stayed away for at least one night a week, was 24,000. This figure must be reduced to 21,000 by deducting the 3,300 persons resident in institutions. It is now established, thanks to public spirited officials, that a number of married couples——

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  On a point of order, as Deputy Shatter is anxious to have as many Members here as possible, I wish to call for a quorum.

Attention having been called to the fact that a quorum was not present and no [784] quorum being present after the expiry of the prescribed period, the Ceann Comhairle suspended the sitting at 2.45 p.m. until 3 p.m.


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