Divorce referendum: Ireland to vote on separation restrictions

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The Irish government has agreed to hold a referendum to ease the country's restrictions on divorce.

Voters will be asked whether they want to scrap the mandatory period of separation that is required before a divorce can be granted.

Couples are required to have lived apart for four out of the previous five years before being granted a divorce.

It is expected that the referendum will be held in May on the same day as local government and European elections.

The decision by the Irish cabinet follows on from bill tabled in the Dáil (Irish parliament) by Fine Gael's Josepha Madigan, proposing to reduce the mandatory separation period to two years.

Voters will have the option of deleting the clause altogether, leaving it to the Dáil to decide a time period.

The mandatory separation period is enshrined in the Irish constitution, having been inserted in place of a ban on divorce that was removed in a referendum 24 years ago.

Divorce was approved in the Republic of Ireland in 1995 by 50.28% to 49.72%.

Recent constitutional referendums in the Republic of Ireland have scrapped the country's ban on abortion and legalised same-sex marriage.

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