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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 1 May 1980

Vol. 320 No. 3

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Marriage Breakdown.


asked the Minister for Justice if he has under consideration any legislative or other initiative with regard to marriage breakdown, nullity or associated issues.

Just a few weeks ago, in reply to Question No. 12 on 27 March (column 928) the Minister for Justice made as full a statement as it was possible for me to make about legislative proposals that I am likely to be sponsoring. One matter specifically mentioned in that reply was projected legislation relating to the jurisdiction of various courts which, of course, would be relevant to any legal proceedings arising from marital disputes or breakdown.

As regards nullity, which involves a finding by the Court that what appeared to be a marriage never existed, I would refer to the Minister's reply of 17 July last to a Question by Deputy O'Keeffe, (column 2592), and to the additional comments that he made in reply to supplementary questions, including one by Deputy Keating. In the course of those comments, he specifically pointed out that the issues involved in relation to nullity had been referred to the Law Reform Commission precisely because they had proved to be so complex that Deputy Kelly, when Attorney General, decided that this was necessary, a decision endorsed by the present Attorney General on the change of Government.

In the non-legislative field, the Minister recently announced the introduction of a civil legal aid scheme.

These are intended to be no more than a few specific comments and of course they are all on the record of the House already. The general subject of marriage breakdown, both as to its causes and its consequences, is clearly far too complex a matter to be dealt with, even at the most superficial level, at Question Time.

Allowing for the qualification in the latter end of the Minister's reply are the Government of the view that there is at least an anomaly in the present situation relative to nullity, between the civil and church situation?

The Government are awaiting the report of the Law Reform Commission when I will be in a position to answer the Deputy's question.

Am I right in assuming that the Government are satisfied with the present situation?

The Government are concerned about the present situation and the Law Reform Commission are examining it.

Will the Minister outline the basis of the Government's concern?

That is a separate question.

It arises directly from the Minister's reply. Is the basis of the Government's concern the anomaly which exists between the Church and the State which are at least out of tune with each other with regard to nullity?

That is a separate question.

Will the Minister accept my best wishes on his recent elevation?

Is it a fact that the brief given to the Attorney General by both Governments is really rather restrictive in respect of the questions arising from the anomalous position of the nullity process of the Catholic Church related to British law as regards annulments taking place here? The general problem of annulments here is not being dealt with by the Law Reform Commission. The Attorney General's brief is quite narrow.

The issues involved in nullity and all related matters have been referred to the Law Reform Commission.

All related matters.

Related matters.

Has the Minister got the brief there?

Other matters are related to the question of nullity and I am quite sure that the Law Reform Commission will examine everything. We cannot examine nullity in isolation.

I wonder what the Minister is talking about.

If that is so, why is the brief of the Attorney General so restrictive? The effect of what takes place in British Courts in relation to people who have had annulments here makes a rather narrow brief that has nothing to do with the general problems arising from annulments taking place here irrespective of what happens should they get divorces in England.

That is not in the brief.

Is the Minister in a position to tell the House the number of people whose marriages have been annulled and who have re-married?

That seems to be a separate question.

It is an associated question.

It is a separate question.

What is separate about it?

The Deputy should put down a question seeking information and statistics.

The question relates to associated issues.

The Minister is there and he knows exactly what he asked the Attorney General.

I will not press the Minister of State on this as he is only new to the job. Why did the Minister for Justice pass a question like this to his junior Minister?

That does not arise. I have called the next question.

I wish to ask a supplementary question which relates to the associated issues. Can the Minister give the number of people whose marriages have been annulled and who have re-married? I have great sympathy for people in this position who feel a pressing need for something to be done to remove this terrible anomaly.

I have replied to that question.

The Minister has replied that the Law Commission are coming up with a result.

I said that it is a separate question.

We are getting into an argument now.

The Minister for Justice has passed the buck to the Minister of State who has passed it to the Law Reform Commission.

It is permissible to raise questions on the adjournment.


Deputy Harte should let Question Time proceed.