Thursday 25th April 2019:  The Referendum Commission, the independent body set up to explain the referendum proposal, promote public awareness and encourage people to vote, has today launched its public information campaign giving the facts about the referendum on the regulation of divorce, which will be held on 24th May.

The campaign will involve a website, www.refcom.ie, which will be the central source of information on the referendum. An independent guide will be distributed to every home across the country and the Commission is running an extensive advertising campaign on TV, radio, online, in newspapers, and on outdoor sites over the coming weeks.

The Chairperson of the Referendum Commission Ms Justice Tara Burns said: “On the same day as the local and European parliament elections people will be asked to vote on a proposal to change the Constitution of Ireland in relation to divorce.  In our independent guide we outline the facts in relation to the proposal and I would encourage everyone to read the guide, listen to the debate and to use their vote on May 24th.”

“The proposal is about two issues relating to divorce, namely how long people must be living apart before applying for a divorce, and the recognition of foreign divorces. There will be one question on the ballot paper and voters can either vote Yes to allow both changes, or No to reject both changes.”

The legal effect of a yes vote

If a majority votes Yes, then the Constitution will change.

1. The Constitution will no longer require a person applying for a divorce to have lived apart from his or her spouse for at least four years. However the minimum period of four years of living apart set out in the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 will continue to apply, unless and until the Oireachtas changes the law.

and

2. The Oireachtas already has power to make laws recognising foreign divorces. This power will be made explicit in the Constitution. The explicit constitutional prohibition on a person remarrying in the State who has obtained a foreign divorce not recognised under Irish law will be removed. It will still be prohibited for a person to remarry in the State unless their foreign divorce is recognised under Irish law.

The legal effect of a no vote

If a majority votes No, then the Constitution will remain unchanged.

1. The Constitution will continue to require that those applying for a divorce must have been living apart for at least four out of the previous five years. The Oireachtas will not have the power to change this.

and

2. The existing power of the Oireachtas to make laws recognising foreign divorces will not change. The explicit constitutional prohibition on a person remarrying in the State who has obtained a foreign divorce not recognised under Irish law will remain.

The guide outlines the present legal position in relation to divorce within the state and on the recognition of foreign divorces. It also outlines the legal effect of a Yes vote and the legal effect of a No vote.   It can be read at www.refcom.ie and it can also be downloaded there.  The Referendum Commission also has a dedicated phone line 1890 270 970.  The Guide and website will feature text in both English and Irish.  The guide will also be available in Braille, Irish Sign Language DVDs, audio CDs and large print versions of the guide in the coming weeks.

Check the register

The Commission also reminded people to check the register to make sure they are on it and that their details are correct.  Chairperson of the Commission said, “There is still time to register, all you have to do is check the electoral register online at checktheregister.ie, or by contacting your local authority office. Closing date is May 7th.”

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