How laws are made

Laws are made by the Oireachtas. The Oireachtas consists of the Dáil, the Seanad and the President. Laws made by the Oireachtas must comply with the Constitution. The Constitution sets out the basic law of the State.

Laws, if challenged, may be reviewed by the courts. The courts may declare a law invalid if it conflicts with the Constitution. The Constitution can only be altered by the people in a referendum.

Divorce within the State

The Constitution originally prohibited divorce within the State.

In 1995, a referendum was passed by the people which removed the prohibition on divorce by permitting a court to grant a divorce when certain conditions are established including:

  • At the date divorce proceedings are instituted, the spouses have lived apart for at least four out of the previous five years. The minimum four-year period does not have to have been continuous.
  • There is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation between the spouses.
  • Proper provision has been or will be made for the spouses, the children of either or both spouses and any other person prescribed by law.

The Oireachtas passed the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 to put into effect what the people had voted for, which includes the minimum four-year separation period. 

Recognition of foreign divorces

The Constitution prohibits persons who have obtained a foreign divorce that is not recognised under Irish law from remarrying during the lifetime of the other party to the marriage.

The 1995 referendum, which removed the prohibition on divorce, did not alter this constitutional provision.

The Constitution does not set out the rules for recognition of a foreign divorce. Some foreign divorces are entitled to recognition within the State under existing law. At the moment, different recognition rules apply depending on where and when the foreign divorce was obtained. 

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