A letter in today’s Irish Times:
And — oh look! — basically the very same letter in today’s Irish Independent:
This chap really does make heavy use of his letter-writing kit. It’s almost as though he is on some sort of campaign.
Here are some line-by-line hot takes:
“… we will be asked to facilitate more liberal divorce laws. We will also be asked to pave the way for the recognition of foreign divorces.”
Darn those foreigners! We don’t want their foreignness here!
“We already have in our country too many victims of shattered households.”
That may be, but it has nothing to do with divorce. Ireland’s divorce rate — 0.6% — is amongst the lowest in the world. It turns out that households shatter all by themselves, and that divorce laws have nothing to do with it.
Divorce is the end result of family break-up, not its cause. (I’m getting some serious “Hello Divorce, Bye Bye Daddy” flashbacks as I type this.)
“Those of us who are involved with homeless services, youth support or societies like St Vincent de Paul, are all too aware of the heartache and confusion caused by divorce and the fragmentation of families”
“Caused by divorce” you say? This seems unlikely. In Ireland, divorce is only available after four years of separation. People who become homeless due to relationship breakdown become homeless straight away.
It is absolutely true that relationship breakdown is a risk factor for homelessness. For example, children of separated parents are more likely to become homeless, especially in socioeconomically disadvantaged families.
But this is entirely different from the claim that divorce causes homelessness. If anything, having a legal divorce helps to make homelessness less likely, given the way courts mandate the provision of alimony and other financial security for family members.
It is the chaotic nature of non-divorce breakups — where no law or court determines what financial arrangements are made — that places families at financial risk.
You could say that this is one of the main reasons for divorce laws: to protect families from the chaos of unstructured and unregulated family breakdown.
“Every marriage worthy of the name has to try to withstand the storms of life; it is more than just a fair weather relationship.”
I repeat the point — Ireland has one of the lowest divorce rates in the world. I think we get the fact that marriages are not fair weather relationships.
“My family and I will be voting No”
Ah, his family and he. Such a family guy. All about the family.
Basically, his line — that liberalizing divorce laws will lead to an increase in family break-up — is a retread of what was run back in Ireland’s previous divorce referendum, in 1995.
I have written about that particular campaign, and the timelessness of its reactionary subtext, before.
But the argument holds no water. The ‘evidence’ presented — namely, that homelessness and family break-up exists — does not support the hypothesis — i.e., that reducing the mandatory waiting time for divorce will make homelessness worse.
Meanwhile…it turns out our letter writer has been writing letters before.
Just last October, when writing to the Sligo Champion, he complained that the provision of abortion services would turn his local hospital into an “abattoir for infants.” In January, he popped up in the Irish Catholic to recommend that “spiritual counselling” be offered as treatment for women who suffer from “post-abortion trauma” (a mental health condition that, inconveniently for him, does not exist).
In past times, he was using the terms “foetus” and “child” interchangeably when discussing different types of abortion. Later he claimed that the “people of this area” — i.e. Sligo-Leitrim — “want the right to life of the unborn child to be protected” (the actual referendum result showed that 60% of them begged to differ).
Elsewhere he busied himself defending the Catholic Church from the Irish Times‘s terrible accusation that bishops had a habit of ‘dictating’ to the state. And he has popped up in the Irish Catholic on several occasions, at one point to offer a “big thank you to all our hard-working Catholic priests.”
I don’t know about you, but I think he might be a religious conservative.
And there it is. The folks to object to the mere existence of divorce, never mind the reduction of the mandatory waiting time, are all religious conservatives. That’s their beef. They don’t want divorce because, well, because Jesus.
You know, I’d nearly respect them more if they just said so, instead of trying to mount bogus arguments about X causing Y — as though they give a damn about using empirical evidence to resolve ethical questions.
Or about homelessness, for that matter.
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.