From top: Anti-divorce rally in Dublin, 1996; Dan Boyle
I got married on the first day of June in 1987. A friend of ours was convinced I had contrived the date. Knowing me to be a massive Beatles fan, he believed I had picked the 20th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Peppers, so I would have the wedding coincide with the opening line of the opening song on that album. He was wrong. I was not that clever. I still am not.
A more poignant time for us to observe would have been the events of June 1986, then nearly twelve months previously.
That was when the first attempt to remove the constitutional bar on divorce was made. It failed ignominiously. It was such a failure that almost two in every three of those who voted insisted that the constitutional bar remain.
We were relatively young. Itself a factor on how our lives transpired. I was twenty four years of age, she was twenty two. The first in our peer group to make this commitment.
Together we never thought we were entering into a constitutional straitjacket. In Corkspeak we were mad about each other. We cared deeply for each other. I like to think we still do.
The mood music from 1986 continued to prevail. It would maintain its effect until in 1995, when the same exaggerated argument, the same reductio ad absurdum comparisons were made, almost managing to persuade again.
Myles na gCopaleen would have had a field day with these arguments. I would have loved to hear his take on that much feared monster, the ‘Floodgates’. The opening of these fabled gates which would wreak havoc upon the fabric of Irish society we were told.
Ireland, it was said, would soon match our amoral cousins in the US and the UK in adopting a frivolous attitude towards the institution and commitment that is Marriage.
It never turned out that way.
For every relationship that descended into ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ theatrics of name calling and plate throwing there were half a dozen other relationships which slowly disintegrated due to the two people involved wanting to live other lives.
Such was our story. We divorced in 2014. We would be grateful, that having come late to the concept of divorce, Ireland would develop a model that would be far more humane but that never overwhelmed.
No fault divorce is more aligned to reality of most relationships that have run their course. Responsibility though is different from blame. I accept responsibility for making choices that meant I wasn’t there when, and as often, as I should have been.
Divorce Irish-style has not meant that ending a relationship means a rejection of all that was good within it. I’m proud of what my then wife has since achieved (a doctorate from Cambridge no less!). I’m happy she has found happiness with someone else.
In a few short weeks our daughter will, hopefully, give birth to a second child. Our hopes for her have been that she would enjoy more choice in life than we enjoyed. We hope her children can enjoy that and more.
I offer our family story as a parable. On Friday we will be revisiting a question that has bedevilled Irish society for the best part of half a century. The same risible arguments will be made about the end of life as we know it.
Ignore them. Abortion Irish-style can be a more kind and gentle approach than anything we’ve experienced before. It is time to wrench the clenched fingers from our basic law. We can sculpt a better Ireland away from our doomsayers and hypocrites.
Change is possible. Change is necessary. Change is now. Vote Yes. You know you really want to.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle