Ireland’s welcome, but incomplete march towards a modern, liberal and kinder democracy continued on Friday when 82.07% of the electorate, one of the most decisive endorsements since the island voted on the Belfast Agreement 21 years ago, backed Government plans for a shorter period of separation between estranged partners before they can apply for a divorce.
Currently, the law demands a four-year separation before matters can be finalised.
The Government has said it will legislate to halve that thereby helping in a small way to make divorce less traumatic and less expensive.
The vote and those on marriage equality and abortion too show how dramatically Ireland has changed.
In 1995, the Catholic Church strongly opposed the introduction of divorce but allowed that “Catholics could vote for the amendment in good conscience, and that it would not be a sin to do so.”
That fudging, a recognition of a slipping grip even 24 years ago, may have facilitated the narrowest of decisions — divorce was legalised after a 50.28% vote in favour.
One of the enduring issues of contention between the Catholic Church and the State is school patronage.
Conservatives have staunchly resisted change and, hence, it has been unacceptably slow.
Maybe it’s time to put the issue to a national vote thereby settling it and transcending the current — and anti-democratic — policy of confining votes on the issue to the parents of school-going children.