Dan Boyle: Till Life Do Us Part


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


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30 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: Till Life Do Us Part

  1. Barry the Hatchet

    This is a really good point, Dan. And not one I have heard so well articulated before.

        1. Nigel

          It’s entirely in keeping with his comments on other subjects – anything related to school shootings in the US or terrorist attacks in Europe or bombings in Syria involves fakes and hoaxes and crisis actors – I was just surprised he went there like that. Still ugly and nasty. Worth noting – there is no functional difference between saying this stuff ironically just to trigger the libs, and actually believing it. Same result in the long run.

  2. Johnny

    Nice piece Dan,congrats to the x on the doctorate what did she ever see in you :)
    We had one those scans done early(I’m not very medical so..) and the doctor asked to see us.Explained that based on this and that there was a high probability that the kid would have DS.But if they did some invasive tests they would be more certain,these tests came with risks.But as we were living overseas termination was a option.For a variety of reasons we decided on no tests and to go ahead with having the kid.There was no DS but having the choices was liberating and in my opinion everyone should have the opportunity to make their own choices.

  3. Starina

    i had to wait five years to divorce my abusive ex husband. five years. just in case i changed my mind after four years. that’s also pretty ignoble. sigh. divorce isn’t perfect here but at least we have it.

    1. kellma

      the referendum on that is due early next year to reduce it to two. I’m in the middle of trying to get away from an abusive marriage so that can’t come soon enough for me. As if it’s not emotionally draining enough, it leaves you practically bankrupt too.

    2. Andrew

      Josepha Madigan is bringing that bill and in fairness to her has worked very hard to get support for it.
      It’s beyond me why we need a referendum to reduce the term required to wait for a divorce to go through.
      Do we need a referendum for bloody everything?
      I mean did we really need a referendum to legalise same sex marriage? Could it not have been through legislation?

      1. SOQ

        There is no doubt but that the conservative forces in our society use the constitution as a means of delaying change. They are like a cat sliding down a plate glass window but you can be certain that they are all very financially comfortable, so can afford to pontificate at others.

      2. Cian

        It’s beyond me why we need a referendum to reduce the term required to wait for a divorce to go through.
        A referendum is needed because Constitution says so (15th Amendment):
        “A Court […] may grant a dissolution of marriage where […] the spouses have lived apart from one another for […] at least four years during the previous five years,”
        This was added to the 15th to stop “quickie divorces” and “marriages of convenience”.

        Do we need a referendum for bloody everything?
        no. just things that are in the Constitution

        I mean did we really need a referendum to legalise same sex marriage? Could it not have been through legislation?
        This is an interesting question. Yes, they could have just passed the current SSM legislation without changing the constitution, but it (almost definitely) would have been challenged. And that challenge may have been successful – when the constitution was written all reference to ‘family’ would have been heterosexual families – so they could argue that family = heterosexual, therefor marriage = heterosexual.

        1. Johnny

          Yo Cian-New Jersey is about to become the second state to legislatively change (recreational use) their marijuana laws-bit off topic but anything in constitution to prevent Irl doing that?
          (Ps it’s not a trick question)

          1. Cian

            I’m not a lawyer.
            On a quick scan I don’t think there is anything in it that would prevent the legislation of any drug.
            Talk to your local TD.

          2. Nigel

            Even if the Repeal fails – AND IT WILL NOT FAIL – it proves that the long thankless drudgery of dedicated focused organised activism can actually move mountains. That needs to be the ultimate takeaway from this for anyone who wants to change the way things are done in this country.

          3. Cian

            technically if the Repeal fails on Friday it proves that the long thankless drudgery of dedicated focused organised activism[1] can stop mountains from being moved.

            [1] i.e. the No side

          4. Cian

            Was the tuxedo, opera cloak and mask not a good enough clue?

            **whoosh**s cloak, and runs off….

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