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Ireland: "Yes" on divorce -- but barely


Challenge seen likely

November 26, 1995
Web posted at: 10:20 a.m. EST (1520 GMT)

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNN) -- The day after Irish voters narrowly voted to defy the Roman Catholic Church and legalize divorce, opponents Sunday vowed a legal challenge that could prevent the constitutional amendment from taking effect. The final tally, after a recount, showed 50.3% in favor of ending Ireland's 58-year-old ban on divorce. 49.7% opposed the change. The margin of victory was 9,114 votes out of 1.62 million cast. Voter turnout was 61 percent.


The margin of victory was 9,114 votes out of 1.62 million cast.

"The referendum is not won on either side," said Peter Scully of the Anti-Divorce Campaign. Divorce opponents are pinning their hopes on a November 17 ruling by Ireland's Supreme Court which said the government acted unconstitutionally by spending 500,000 Irish pounds ($750,000) to advertise the referendum. It ruled that the campaign amounted to support for the "Yes" vote. The Irish government denied that, claiming the money was spent to inform people about the referendum, not to win votes.

Prime Minister

"I don't think (a court challenge) will be successful

-- Prime Minister John Bruton

"I don't think (a court challenge) will be successful," said Irish Prime Minister John Bruton, who, like the leader of every other political party in Ireland backed the campaign to allow remarriage against Church and conservative opposition. Under the change, separated couples who have lived apart for four out of the previous five years will be allowed to remarry. Supporters said it would give the country's estimated 80-thousand separated couples a new chance.

Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa campaigned against changing the 58-year ban on divorce, insisting marriage should be a lifelong commitment. A similar referendum in 1986 ended with a two to one decision to keep the ban in place. Ireland was among only three western countries to constitutionally ban divorce. Similar laws in Chile and Malta remain on the books.

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