Jun 12, 2024

There are troubling developments in Northern Ireland, as the Province edges closer to no-fault divorce and a ban on so-called ‘conversion practices’, following votes in the Assembly.

Last month, legislators strongly backed a motion calling for a law to allow applications for divorce without assigning blame.

Proposing the motion, Sinn Féin Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Nicola Brogan claimed current divorce laws, from 1978, are “outdated”.

Speaking for the Executive, Minister Dr Caoimhe Archibald said that no-fault divorce “allows divorce to proceed on a less contentious basis and avoids parties being trapped in a marriage”.

At C4M we have long been clear that no-fault divorce, which is really ‘no-reason’ divorce, is a marriage-wrecker’s charter.

Since similar provisions were introduced in England and Wales two years ago, ending a marriage has been easier than getting out of a mobile phone contract. A person can end his or her marriage on demand and the spouse being divorced has no say. A victim of adultery or domestic violence can no longer cite that conduct as the reason for the divorce.

Predictably, the number of divorce applications soared to record highs.

Politicians should be backing marriage; helping couples stay together where possible, not treating marriage as an empty promise.

In a separate vote last week, the Assembly once again backed (£) “a ban on conversion practices in all forms” and called on the Minister to bring forward a Bill.

However, the Communities Minister Gordon Lyons (DUP) warned of a ‘one-sided’ debate. He noted that when other countries have tried to ban the practice they found potential conflicts with human rights law on freedom of religion and speech, and “difficulties in arriving at a precise definition of conversion practices and of what a potential ban would include”.

A major worry is that banned ‘conversion practices’ could include, for example, encouraging a man to stay with his wife, rather than abandon her to pursue a same-sex relationship, and encouraging a young person to accept his or her biological sex.

At C4M we call on political leaders to give marriage the support it deserves and stop endlessly undermining it.