I am glad to get this opportunity to continue my contribution. In one sense, there is difficulty when a contribution is broken up by an Adjournment. I seem to have a propensity in this regard. On the discussion some time back when we debated the report on marital breakdown, this happened to me on two occasions. For that reason I hope the Chair will give me an opportunity to refer very briefly to some of the points that I raised in my hour's contribution last night, so that I will get oriented.
My contribution has no particular sequence or format. I am dealing with the different ideas as they come to mind. The stand I have taken is a very positive and a very caring one and is very necessary. I stated that my position on this was very clear. I expanded on it in this House some few years ago. It is on the record of the House. Very briefly, it is this: regarding marital breakdown I could not envisage any satisfactory solution which did not include divorce in certain limited and extreme circumstances. That is still my view. In the Bill before us there is the five-year failure period before divorce is considered; there is the undertaking and the commitment of the Government to follow-up with legislation which will take into consideration the special problems of women — we know that women are destined to play a very difficult role — and we are promised legislation which will take care of the children. Taking into consideration all these matters, many of which we will go into in greater detail at Committee Stage, this Bill meets the criteria that I laid down. Therefore, my approach is a positive one and I will be voting "yes".
I find it somewhat uncomfortable to be, as it seems so far, the sole member among my colleagues who have taken this viewpoint. I respect the viewpoint of all the Members and, indeed, every individual with regard to this matter. I believe there is no sitting on the fence. We must come down one way or the other. Having regard to all these things and to the pain that will ensue because of this amendment, if it is carried, and the cost to the State as against costs at the present time, I could not be persuaded that my approach is the wrong one.
Once again I want to thank my party for giving me the opportunity to express my personal views. They are my own individual views. It is proper to leave the decision to the people and to give the people the opportunity to make a choice and to determine whether we will or will not have divorce.
As I said last night, my approach is a very simply one. I am leaving the legal points to the lawyers. In one sense, if somebody said my approach is too simple I would not object.
I said that in most cases the happiness that people seek in marriage is bought at a very great price. I was unable to put a costing on that but I looked at it from the other point of view, which is from the point of view of those who are not prepared to pay the price. In that category I included the alcoholic, who refused treatment — I have great sympathy for the alcoholic — I included the criminal, the gambler and people with some serious defect or neglect in other areas. These people, in my estimation, are not prepared to pay the price. Therefore, I feel that a spouse trapped in that situation should get the opportunity to opt out if he or she wishes.
Again, I look at this from a very selfish situation. I picture my own child, my own daughter in that situation, left perhaps by a husband who might never return, abused physically or mentally. Like any other parent, there is nothing I would not do for my children. According to the central doctrine of my faith, the Roman Catholic Church, that is, the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, where we see in every individual the person of Christ, that is not an unreasonable stand to take.
When we say that marriage is for life — and I personally believe it is for life — that is my commitment — that is my faith — we are saying to people: "Do whatever you like; behave whatever way you want to. Your spouse must put up with you for life." That is wrong, because if I engage somebody in my office I expect him or her to be punctual, I expect them to be concerned. I expect them to have a great interest in my work. In a situation of marriage, which is a lifelong commitment, it is extraordinary that there seem to be no rules of behaviour. Love seems to be the spark which sets it off but it is not necessary to maintain it. Life, we all know, is very difficult where there is love, and where love is diminished the problems are greater. I would not like to envisage what life is like in a marriage where that love turns to hate. We know that this marital problem is going to increase. There is no question about that, in spite of what people have said about providing resources to deal with the problems. Of course, these are necessary. They are promised in this Bill and in the memorandum that comes with it. I take that commitment seriously. I could not envisage any Government reneging on their responsibility in this regard. Therefore, I take that understanding in a bona fide situation. Just because my marriage is stable and just because my wife happens to be exemplary and has given me everything in life that is worthwhile and that in marriage I have everything I want, I do not see why I should condemn those who are in a broken marriage situation, and say that they did not try hard enough and that it is their own fault. I do not think I should set myself up as a judge. I do not do so.
Most people marry for a sexual relationship and in a broken marriage they are denied that relationship. My church forbids sexual intercourse outside marriage. We have a predominantly Catholic country, so I see a sad, human situation here. What I want to see is a pluralist State which acknowledges the freedom and rights of other religions and that these minority religions or people who belong to no religions would not be constrained by the beliefs of the majority religion, such as the Roman Catholic Church in this country. Divorce comes into that category here, because while divorce is not allowed under the laws of the Roman Catholic Church most of the other religions have the same commitment to marriage but allow divorce in situations where there is no hope of having a marriage mended.
Anybody who attended Mass this morning will have heard the Gospel on that issue of divorce where we are told that Our Lord, when he was asked about it, said that a wife who divorced her spouse and married again committed adultery and the husband who divorced his spouse and married again committed adultery. That is the clear teaching of the Catholic Church. That is my firm belief also. Catholics who remain loyal to their belief may not remarry after divorce. Catholics who are loyal to that belief may not use artificial contraceptives. I am not setting myself up as a judge in this matter. Each individual has a conscience to do as he considers right and proper. I can see situations where it would not be improper to avail of these facilities. In other countries where divorce has become available Catholics have made use of that facility to the same extent as anybody else. In this situation in this country it may well be the same. If it will be the same then, in effect, we are denying divorce facilities not only to the minority of religions and those of no religion, but also to those of the majority religion who would avail of that facility.
I have already mentioned the sadness which I feel when the Protestant churches throughout the country fall into ruin and are demolished. That is an irreparable loss from the religious and cultural point of view, and also that of society. My whole approach to those people would be to tell them that they have a place in our society, that while it is sad that their numbers seem to have dwindled they have a place in our society. Therefore, it is logical to say that they must have a special place in our Constitution, in our statutes and in our legal system so that they will not be inhibited by the ethos, views and commandments of the Catholic Church.
I went into the matter of tolerance and pluralism and gave references from a book by Desmond M. Clarke, which I regard as a masterful book on this subject and one which I have consulted quite often during debates in this House. Like all the other Members, I am sorry that we seem to have failed in transmitting our inherited values. Nevertheless, we have moved with the times in one sense. There may be some values, particularly the sexual values which applied in my youth, which would have a greater appeal to me. From many other points of view I would not like to see the hands of the clock turned back.
I mentioned the problem which children have when at school. They are taught religion and how to deal with the sixth and ninth commandments the way we were taught in that situation. Not alone was it wrong to act immorally but even immoral thoughts were forbidden. I am sure the teaching is the same now. It cannot have changed that much. On television programmes — some of them totally foreign to our culture — we see married men getting into bed with different women. This seems to debase the whole concept of the teaching of religion. A certain standard is taught at school and then when the children go home they see the very opposite, but in a more attractive, and appealing way and in a way in which young poeple are not able to resist. Therefore, there is terrible tension. I am not sure how it can be controlled. If, after seeing some of those programmes I were to give a lecture or talk to my children I am not sure it would counteract everything they had seen. I do not know how to deal with that, but I am sure there are people who could make meaningful suggestions in this area. I see this as a major problem for the next generations.
I have made it clear that I am not for divorce. I am for a meaningful marriage and a Christian way of life. I am for happiness. I am for everything that is beautiful in marriage. At the end of the day, in some cases, that ideal is not achievable. From that point of view when people ask me if I am for divorce, then the answer is" yes, I am for divorce in that situation". I believe that marriage guidance is necessary. Courses must be very helpful. I should like to congratulate the Church, clergy, volunteers and everybody who act so unselfishly in this area and give their time and their talents.
Of course, I also believe that more than a short course before marriage is necessary, the whole upbringing of a person, the whole background. Anything that would be a hindrance in this respect as regards income, housing, or any area whatever, should be given great attention by the State. I mentioned Fr. Peyton and his campaign about the family that prays together, stays together. Surely that is the whole point of our exercise in dealing with the problem, to try to get families to stay together. This will be the important approach in the legislation which will be enacted subsequent to the passing of this Bill, if it does pass, to do everything possible to keep families together and to make them work. Love withers, and that is the source of the problem. Perhaps expectations are unrealistic and too high. People are not prepared to pay the price. In any event, the result is broken marriages.
I have the greatest respect for all other Churches as well as my own. I recall back in the very early fifties cycling into Kells weekly to a social science class which was organised by the very good priest, Fr. Crilly who has since died, God rest his soul. Indeed nearly all who took part in that class have since died. The classes were held in the Christian Brothers school. At that time Papal Encyclicals were new to me: Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno and all the others. We dealt with them in some detail. It was a most enjoyable time.
I recall that very good priest stating that, in the 2,000 years of Christianity, at times good, old fashioned, honest-to-God paganism had been a saving or an ameliorative force in society. Unfortunately, I never went into that in further detail to isolate the different periods when paganism had come up trumps and Christianity had failed to live up to expectations. But what I took from it was, and what stayed with me, is the fact that no Church or group has an exclusive right to virtue or morality.
Religion is simply a path to God. There are many paths. It is not for me to say which path is the best or the ideal one. I feel to some extent I am a committed Roman Catholic. I would like to put on the record that I recognise that fact. At that time the issue regarding the mother and child scheme had come up for debate. Indeed, in that respect I recall too that good priest explaining — and I hope I do not do him an injustice — the Church had no objection to looking after the welfare of mothers. What was at issue, obviously, was that the Church was afraid the State would take over what I might call the question of fertilisation, deciding how many children a mother could have in the interest of her own health. That seemed to be the problem at that time. It was an unfortunate issue which brought about the resignation of a very great man, Dr. Noel Browne. I was glad to hear him afterwards on a radio programme stating very courageously and very fairly that that Bill which he inherited was a Fianna Fáil Bill, and one which he inherited from a previous Fianna Fáil Government. I felt proud of that.
I know that some religious-minded — and there is nothing wrong with being religious-minded — may say, and I have heard them say, that divorce is legalised prostitution. Somebody said it is putting the cloak of respectability on adultery. This is a very emotional response. One may ask: why give someone who has broken up one family the opportunity to break up another? I am not convinced that is a fair question because we could all stand condemned in one way or another in aspects of our lives. Small issues determined whether we went in the right direction or the left.
I firmly believe that no individual is beyond reform, the criminal, the rapist, the murderer — anybody. That is the proper stand. From that point of view I could not accept that what we are doing is giving someone who has broken up one home the opportunity to break up another. I do not accept that. Inevitably, in some instances that will happen. The law will be abused. We know that. If divorce is a human right we should not negative it. It is the same with regard to cost to society and the pain. That extra cost to society and that pain which will be involved, perhaps not additionally — are other matters. Taking that into consideration I feel that, if divorce is a human right, it should be allowed and should be available. We have to ask ourselves: is it a civil right? If we feel it is, the answer is yes and all the other matters are peripheral, important and serious as they are.
Of all the EC countries — 12 at present — we are the only country that does not have divorce legislation. Some of those countries would be considered to be as Christian or as Catholic as this country — Italy, for example, Spain; Portugal and France. I am not sure how you would determine whether they are active Catholics or not. Perhaps as regards attendance at Mass, this country must be in the lead. But I am sure all these countries are as concerned about morals, virtue and society as we are. I am sure they are as concerned about the changing values and that they were as reluctant to introduce this legislation as we are. I would like to look at two countries, Italy and Spain, and briefly consider their divorce legislation. First of all with regard to Italy, the principal statutes are the laws of 1 December 1970 and 25 September 1975. These state:
Divorce may be granted where (1) the respondent is convicted of certain offences, or sentenced to certain periods of imprisonment, or acquitted of certain offences on the grounds of total unsoundness of mind or other specific reasons; (2) there is non-consummation of the marriage; (3) the respondent being a foreign national has obtained an annulment or dissolution abroad and has subsequently remarried; (4) where there has been a judicial separation or a consentual separation ratified by the court. The petition for divorce may be made after five years if there is mutual consent, six years if the respondent objects but the initial separation was by consent, or seven years where the respondent objects and the initial separation was on foot of a judicial separation caused by a fault of the petitioner. The court may refuse to ratify a separation agreement if not satisfied with the arrangements made for children's material or moral welfare. This obliges the parties to come up with an arrangement which will satisfy the court. The court must attempt to achieve a reconciliation of the parties. They will be heard first separately and then together. If the court forms the opinion that there is a possibility of a reconciliation it can delay the trial for up to a year. If the reconciliation is refused, however, the court must finally accept this.
Regarding Spain the position seems to be as follows:
Divorce was introduced by law No. 30/1981 of July 1981. Marriage may be dissolved where (1) there has been one year's separation from the date of bringing a petition for judicial separation jointly or by consent; (2) one year's separation from the bringing of a petition or counter petition for judicial separation; the grounds for judicial separation include (a) desertion, adultery, not if spouses separated by mutual consent or by the active spouse alleging adultery, injurious or vexatious conduct and any other serious or repeated breach of matrimonial duties; (b) any serious or repeated breach of duties towards children of the marriage or those of either spouse living in the family home; (c) conviction followed by imprisonment exceeding six years; (d) alcoholism, use of narcotics, or mental derangement whenever the interest of the other spouse or of the family demands the suspension of cohabitation; (e) there are also several distinct separation grounds; (3) two years separation since (a) the freely agreed actual separation of the spouses; (b) one of the spouses has been declared missing on the petition of the other spouse; (c) the actual separation of the spouses when the petitioner alleges that the other spouse had given him cause sufficient for judicial separation; (4) five years separation on the petition of either spouse; (5) conviction for an attempt on the life of the petitioner, his ancestors or descendants.
These give us something to compare with this Bill and the subsequent legislation. I am sure the Government have done that. I am sure in the legislation which will follow many of these matters will also be incorporated.
I realise that divorce will be no help as regards the problem of unstable marriages. This has been mentioned by others and has been conceded. I should like to quote Professor Mary McAleese on a motion that civil divorce should be available in Ireland reported in the Law Society Gazette, June 1979. I am quoting from page 98:
No one suggests that divorce solves the problem of unstable marriages. The only real answer to that lies in prevention through education and support. Nor can it heal the wounds caused by two warring spouses. It cannot replenish the wasted years or exorcise the damage, but it does permit a clean finish and a fresh start with, hopefully, lessons learned and experience gained. There is no guarantee of a happy ending, but divorce does at least hold out the possibility. Without it there remains the syndrome of breakdown, of frustrated people trapped in unsatisfactory relationships, of children soured by their experience at the hands of incompatible parents, of illegitimate children and illicit relationships which have their own form of inherent misery precisely because they cannot be legitimised.
Professor McAleese also refers to the increasing involvement of the State in casualty marriages and points out that these pieces of legislation did not create the problems. They were intended to deal with them. The same is true for divorce legislation. As Professor McAleese puts it, and I quote from page 95 of the same paper:
No matter how many times we repeat the assertion that divorce wrecks homes or damages lives, we cannot make it valid or true. In the words of Rheinstein in his treatise on American divorce: "The breakdown of marriage is an event in the realm of fact which is different from and regularly precede that event in the realm of law which is called divorce and which does no more than ascertain the fact that a marriage has broken down and restores freedom to the parties.
I should like to conclude my references to this Law Society Gazette and the paper by Professor McAleese by quoting a section regarding reasons for marriage breakdown:
But if then divorce legislation is not a cause of marital breakdown, but instead an expression of already changed and changing attitudes to marriage, what then are the effective causes of marital disharmony and eventual breakdown? The answer to this operates at two levels. One identifies general factors which have had the effect of subtly changing our traditional concept of marriage, of relationships inside and outside marriage, of male-female roles in life and marriage etc. At this level our changing views and expectations are themselves the dynamic force in the changing nature of the institution of marriage. Marriage is preceived not as a set of given and immutable constants but as a growing and developing idealisation exposed to and vulnerable to change. The second level identifies individualised factors which, if present in a particular marriage, may mitigate its viability. At the general level the greatest contribution is made by the increasingly complex nature of modern life itself. Our sophisticated consumerised world creates its own tensions and pressures and all too often the home is used as a forum in which such tensions are relieved in an inarticulate and violent way.
Simultaneously our expectations of life and marriage are changing radically in step with the social and economic emancipation of women which, while far from complete as yet, is nonetheless real in its consequences. There is a growing realisation among women that there exists alternatives to the traditional subservient doormat style existence of former days and, just as our prospects from life and marriage have widened and been enhanced so, too, our tolerance of unacceptable behaviour inside marriage has dropped as a consequence. There have, too, been real changes in attitudes to contraception, family planning, working wives, sex inside and outside marriage and each of these factors, along with many others, have almost imperceptibly affected and moulded the overweaning attitude to marriage.
Incidental to that there is the reality for many of our young people that the sole source of information about sex, love or marriage is gleaned from cheap magazines who traffic in the belief that sexual licence is the hallmark of freedom and that romance is a synonym for love. But where are the official attempts to contravert these fallacies which are more insidious to marriage than any amount of divorce laws? Where are the educational programmes designed to direct the young to mature and unselfish sexual responses, to an intellectual realisation of the need for loving, caring, forgiving and communicating as fundamentals in marriage? A response, instead of being open, confident and positive, has on the whole been unerringly negative and failures highlighted in the illegitimacies, abortions and marital breakdown which increasingly form a normal part of everyday life.
It may very well be true that there is nowadays a growing tendency to take lightly the marriage vows and a reluctance to overcome problems in marriage; but if it is, then it is a fact of life which has to be tackled in a radical and realistic way just as it is a fact that marriages break up with or without a legal way out and that this is a problem which needs an answer or, better still, a series of answers.
That deals in a very caring and comprehensive way with many of the notions I have in this regard. Those references give us much to ponder on. People nowadays expects far more from marriage. There is no problem if one partner is prepared to put up with anything, like in the old days. When I think of my youth and the women of that time, how they slaved. But things have changed. We have social changes, progress, development and evolution, and there is nothing we can do about it. If one partner is prepared to put up with being a slave then we do not have any problem, but it is only in the situation where two people have a high expectancy from marriage that this is frustrated.
The people who campaign for divorce believe in marriage and having the position regularised, because if they did not believe in the institution of marriage they would not be concerned. They would live together, but it is because they believe in marriage they campaign for divorce.
With regard to the charge that divorce breeds divorce, we are in a very speculative area. The experience in other countries points to increases in divorce rates. At the early stages there will be high incidence of divorce. As laws become liberalised, the same happens; and then there is the ongoing effects of liberalising these laws. There would have been an increase in the number of problem marriages anyway. In Ireland can anyone seriously claim that if we do not bring in divorce legislation the problem will not escalate? Everyone is agreed that the problem will not go away. Divorce is an evil, but failure to release those trapped in marriage is a greater evil from the point of view of the individuals, children and the families and the effect on society.
I realise that, to an extent, it can be said that there will be a fundamental change in this country if divorce laws are brought in. People may not try for marriage for life, and it could be a temporary arrangement. I would have to leave that to the good sense of people. It has been said that the perception of marriage will suffer, that no marriage is safe and that standards will be affected. I do not go along with these claims. It has been said that it will be easy for one individual to will the failure of a marriage when the divorce laws are passed. At present it is easy for one individual to bring about the failure of a marriage. In all instances it is the failure of one that is the problem.
Senator Eoin Ryan asked a very important question. Where do we stop accommodating problems? There are many problems for which we do not have a solution. I would see his point, but any problem can be helped. It may not always be possible to get the ideal solution or the way out we would wish for, but it is a defeatist attitude to say that some problems cannot be solved. Some people have an unrealistic expectation as regards marriage.
I am concerned about children, because they are the innocent victims. They have a right to happiness. It is the responsibility of parents to try to achieve that happiness. Unfortunately, they do not come first in many instances. They do not get any priority. They should come first, because the future of society is at risk. I realise the importance of the family — the family where we have father and mother in a caring situation where they bring up their children in love; and, if they do not, society will suffer as a result. It is in the State's interest to see that families are happy. The broken home is a concern of the State. Divorce legislation cannot mend broken homes or broken hearts, and in those situations I do not lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with broken hearts.
Divorce legislation can bring a new start. It has been said that it trivialises marriage, but I do not believe that is so. The opposite is true. People will think more deeply before entering into a marriage commitment when they realise what is at stake. It is in the interest of society to make sure that those factors will be considered. It is more than a contract between two people. Children are also involved and society has a big concern in this regard.
I am not sure what the main causes of marriage breakdown are. Many Members have dealt with this fact. I will quote a short piece from Sociology Themes and Perspectives, a very good treatise on sociology which I have often referred to. First of all, it deals with the explanations for marital breakdown and considers a number of factors — those which affect the value attached to marriage, those which affect the degree of conflict between the spouses and those which affect the opportunities for individuals to escape from marriage. The extract states:
From this viewpoint, behaviour is largely a response to shared norms and values. It therefore follows that a change in the rate of marital breakdown is to some degree a reflection of changing norms and values in general, and, in particular, those associated with marriage and divorce. Functionalists such as Talcott Parsons and Ronald Fletcher argue that the rise in marital breakdown stems largely from the fact that marriage is increasingly valued. People expect and demand more from marriage and consequently are more likely to end a relationship which may have been acceptable in the past. Thus Ronald Fletcher argues that, "a relatively high divorce rate may be indicative not of lower but of higher standards of marriage in society". This view finds some support from the increasing priority given to marriage and the family by the spouses in Young and Willmott's "symmetrical family" and Goldthorpe and Lockwood's "privatized family". The high rate of remarriage also lends support to Parsons and Fletchers' arguments. Thus paradoxically, the higher value placed on marriage may result in increased marital breakdown.
On the following page a very brief extract is as follows:
N. Dennis suggests that the specialization of function which charterizes the modern family will lead to increased marital breakdown. Dennis argues that, "In so far as compansionship, a close durable, intimate and unique relationship with one member of the opposite sex becomes the prime necessity in marriage, a failure in this respect becomes sufficient to lead to its abandonment". Put simply when love goes, there's nothing much left to hold a couple together.
I think we all concur with the viewpoint. In another small extract there is a reference to William J. Goode author of World Revolution and the Family and it states:
Goode argues that the change in attitudes towards divorce is part of the more general process of secularization in Western societies. Secularization refers to the declining influence of the church and of religious belief in general. During the nineteenth century, the church strongly denounced divorce, insisting that the phrase `till death do us part' to be taken literally. During this century, despite a strong rearguard action, the church has had to accommodate the rising divorce rate by taking a less rigid view. However, the official church position is probably less important than the declining influence of religious beliefs and values in general in industrial society. Many sociologists argue that secular, that is non-religious, beliefs and values increasingly direct behaviour. In terms of divorce, Goode argues this means that, `Instead of asking, "Is this moral?" the individual is more likely to ask, "Is this a more useful or better procedure for my needs?" '.
There is more emphasis on material matters and less on spiritual matters. Have those people who feel that divorce places us on the slippery slope — other metaphoric phrases were used in describing this problem — no faith in our people as regards the future? I have every faith in them. In looking to the future it is relevant to have a brief glimpse at the past. Most people, particularly people in a marriage breakdown situation, will say that the past means nothing to them and that they are only interested in the present and the future. Jack Goody in his book Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe, published by the Cambridge University Press in 1983, said: “None of us can entirely divest ourselves of our cultural clothing, nor is such nudity always becoming”.
There is no harm in taking a brief look at the traditional situation in past centuries. I am not a historian but nevertheless it is important to look at the past. There is no question but that the central doctrine in the Church's teaching was that marriage is for life. This, categorically and absolutely, was the Church's teaching and that will remain its teaching. In his book, Jack Goody goes back to the fourth century and deals with the different aspects of the involvement of the Church in marriage and where the Church took over from the State the total responsibility as regards marriages, declaration of valid marriages and all aspects in that area. In the fourth century there were special laws in relation to the marriage of cousins, marriage of widows, problems with adoptees and secular concubinage. The Church made certain laws in relation to those problems. It has been criticised in that its primary purpose was to acquire land through widows and other legacies. It acquired a tremendous amount of property. A central objective of the Reformation was to dispose of this property. Nevertheless, that was a central doctrine and no matter what criticisms there are, I accept that totally.
We had a difficult situation in Ireland, because medieval Ireland was divided into two nations. The Church was also affected by this division. There was the Anglo-Irish section, which had English law, and the Gaelic-Irish section, which had the Brehon laws. Of course, the Brehon laws existed into the Middle Ages. Divorce was available and there was no status of illegitimacy.
A book edited by Art Cosgrave and published by the College Press in 1985 is very useful in this regard. It states:
Within Gaelic Ireland marriage behaviour had long been the target of criticism. Throughout the eleventh and twelfth centuries church reformers within and without the country attacked a pattern of marital behaviour based not on the canon law of the church not on much older traditions. Thus the Irish law on marriage — a law of fornication rather than a law of marriage, according to Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury — permitted a man to keep a number of concubines, allowed divorce at will followed by remarriage of either partner, and took no account of canonical prohibitions I regarding consanguinity or affinity. It is not surprising to find, therefore, that one of the benefits which Pope Alexander III hoped might accrue from Henry II's visit to Ireland in 1171-2 was a reformation in Irish marriage customs.
Further on it states:
Many men and women among the aristocracy continued to have a succession of spouses and this was a key factor in the proliferation of some of the major families. For example, Pilib Mág Vidhir, lord of Fermanagh (d. 1395) had twenty sons by eight mothers and Toird Lealbach Ó Domhnaill, lord of Tír Conaill had eighteen sons by ten different women. And on the basis of this and other evidence, Kenneth Nichols concluded that `throughout the medieval period, and down to the end of the older order in 1603, what could be called Celtic secular marriage remained the norm in Ireland and christian matrimony was no more than the rare exception, grafted on to this system.
Of course, the penal laws in Ireland had a big impact. I will quote one short paragraph from page 95 of Gaelic and Gaelicised Ireland in the Middle Ages:
Such patterns were in no way exceptional. Murtough (`Maurice') O'Kelly, bishop of Clonfert and afterwards (1393-1407) archbishop of Tuam, had four sons, only was of whom is not known to have followed his father's profession. The second son Tomas, became, like his father, bishop of Clonfert and was promoted to Tuam shortly before his death in 1441, though he never took possession of the archbishopric. The fourth, Connor, born during his father's episcopate in Clonfert, entered the Cistercian abbey of Knockmoy, of which he became abbot. Bishop Thomas during his episcopate begot at least two sons; one became rector of Athenry and the other archdeacon of Clonfert. But besides this general tendency of the sons of the clergy to become clerics, the papal registers of the fifteenth century are full of examples of sons directly succeeding their fathers in benefices either by papal dispensation or by means of such devices as collusive law suits, etc. designed to evade the canon law prohibition against this form of hereditary succession.
The penal laws had their own problems. In pre-Famine Ireland there were early marriage, the made-marriage and the dowry. In the post-Famine period there was a big decrease in marriages and a high rate of celibacy. Above all there were high moral standards.
Through all of this there was, as there still is, unfortunately, class distinction. I will quote a paragraph from Marriage in Ireland page 103 which bears out my point. It is on the Irish folk tradition by a very noted folklorist, Caoimhín Ó Danachair. It states:
But there was one gap which was not crossed. The landless labourer was the untouchable of Irish rural society. On no account, consideration or condition would the son or daughter marry, or be allowed to marry, the child of a labourer. This gulf between the farmer and the labourer was by far the greatest class distinction, the widest social gap in rural Ireland. This was reflected in the pattern of marriage. Farmers and others of position and property had a status to maintain, and were bound by the conventions of the dowry and the marriage settlement. Labourers were more mobile, they could travel seeking work, and having found it and built a cabin to live in, could marry without further ado. Early nineteenth century documentation frequently remarks upon this, the proclivity of the labouring class to early marriage and large families, and the more circumspect approach to marriage of the farmers. Incidentally, this should be considered as a factor in population change in the nineteenth century.
You reach your own conclusion with regard to the extracts I have quoted. Maybe they do not represent the position accurately. They certainly do not represent it entirely. Many people would question whether I have selected appropriate aspects. From looking at the past, at the problems and the way people lived, I have great belief in the future. I have no difficulty whatsoever in looking forward to the future when divorce will be available. I have enough faith in the people of this country to be confident that this will not lead to the slippery slope that people have talked about metaphorically.
I would like to make a very brief reference to the Catholic Church. I am a committed Roman Catholic. I am proud to say that the Catholic Church has always stood for the respect and dignity of women. There is the objection that, unfortunately, women do not have equality with men as regards ordination but I hope this will come about. Priests are very committed people who carry out their duties unselfishly. In the past priests preached fire from the pulpits as regards sexual morality which, thankfully, is no longer the case. There is some criticism of priests to which I do not subscribe. I admire them. When we are in trouble we go to them and they are there to help us. They work a 24 hour day for a remuneration that is only a pittance. They do wonderful work as do the Christian Brothers, the nuns and all those in religious orders. We are told that the laity are the church just as much as are priests, clerics and so on. In that respect I am the Church and we are the Church. We could very well ask are we a Christian country? I am not sure how we would determine that. If we are would divorce legislation make us less Christian? I do not think so. People have to work hard at their marriages. There must be self-sacrifice and control. There are some who say that their marriages would have ended in divorce if divorce legislation had been available in their time. Perhaps this is true in a few cases. Senator Michael Higgins dealt with that. I would have great faith in people to cope with any situation so long as the will to do so is present.
I recall a very close friend of mine who is a priest telling me a story about another priest he knew who had moved to a new parish. Perhaps he was not very experienced in pastoral affairs. A couple came to him who had a marriage problem. He sat down with them and gave them advice. They went away, but came back again and again with their problem unresolved. At the end he came to the conclusion that there was no solution for them. He made up his mind to tell them that he felt there was no solution to their problem and perhaps they should separate. The next time they called it was to thank him; everything was right and they had got on the right road. I suppose that is true in almost every case. Romance starts a marriage but it takes true love to keep it rolling. Looking at Sally O'Brien across a lounge bar may make a man's heart race but the same look across a kitchen table on a cold frosty morning when the baby is teething and the kettle refuses to come to the boil can cause far different emotions.
I agree with Senators who have said that education in this regard is most important. Of course, sex education is only a part of what is necessary but it is a most important part. The schools must play their role, particularly in regard to what children see on television. By and large this is uncontrolled. The family must play their full part. When we talk about happiness in the family, it is very hard to break it down. There are different emphases on different areas. As other Members have said, what would make one individual happy could possibly make another unhappy. In marriage people should be prepared to pay the very heavy price. Marriage is a two engined machine and the two engines must be working properly and in unison. Otherwise it will not work.
I hope if this amendment goes through divorce will not be just for the wealthy. I agree it is most important to provide for the spouse and children. It would be a mistake if divorce were confined to those who are wealthy. This is another aspect we will deal with on Committee Stage. Of course divorce is bound to bring more financial problems. Those living together who already have financial problems will have great difficulty if they split up and enter into other commitments.
There are no statistics regarding the extent of the problem in Ireland. It would be very difficult to get accurate statistics. A figure of 70,000 or 6 per cent is given in the report of the Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown. They pointed out that this is the lowest figure in Europe. Nevertheless, it is a sizeable and a growing figure. Nobody can tell us the exact extent of it. I realise there are some partners in broken marriages who do not want divorce, mainly because it would confer freedom to remarry on the other partner, or because it would interfere with maintenance orders, and so on. I understand this is a problem.
There are those who say the State will have to pay much more if divorce laws come in. I remain to be convinced in this regard because at present people with broken marriages have to be helped by the State. I know cases where married people have separated and their children have been taken into State care. That is an unfortunate position.
I have wandered a little in my contribution. My approach has been a simple one and a very concerned one. Perhaps the way I look at it is selfish. There are many other aspects to it, and I think the simple approach is the correct one. In life it is the simple things that matter.
When I was growing up as a young boy and as a young man, to put it mildly, there was no affluence. I remember going out in the spring time and getting a sally rod and making a fishing rod to catch trout in the little river. I always gave the first trout to my mother. When I asked her if she enjoyed it she always said it was the most beautiful trout she had eaten. Sometimes I fear she did not enjoy it all herself. She distributed it. I enjoyed that simple approach.
The same applies to marriage. When we get married we want to bring our partners happiness. We want to show them that they are the ones who really matter. We do everything possible for them, to live for them and give our lives for them. That is my concept of marriage: working, suffering, doing everything necessary for the partner who has committed herself or himself for life and placed that confidence in getting married.
From that point of view I am sad that in our society so many people are unable to continue with their commitments. I am sad that we are unable to transmit these values we inherited. It is wrong to bury our heads in the sand. Taking into consideration the terms of the Bill and the promise by the Government to implement this legislation which is detailed in the paper which accompanied the Bill and which I found very helpful, my response is a positive one and I will be voting yes.