High Court to Review Legality of Divorce Referendum
DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) _ Ireland’s leading anti-divorce campaigner won the right today to challenge the legality of last month’s vote to end the ban on divorce.
Voters approved a constitutional amendment ending the ban in a referendum held on Nov. 24. The margin of victory was the closest in Irish electoral history _ only 9,118 ballots out of more than 1.6 million cast.
The vote was held a week after the Supreme Court ruled the government acted unconstitutionally in budgeting up to $800,000 for billboards, leaflets and newspaper ads urging a ``yes″ vote.
Prime Minister John Bruton immediately stopped the ad campaign.
But a lawyer for former Sen. Des Hanafin, leader of the Anti-Divorce Campaign, told the High Court today that at least $400,000 had already been spent. Peter Kelly provided an affidavit from a London pollster, Gordon Heald, alleging the ads could potentially have mobilized 3 percent to 5 percent of the total ``yes″ vote.
The High Court’s acceptance of the case, which is likely to be heard in January, means that President Mary Robinson could not sign the official electoral records today as planned, and delays the introduction of legalized divorce in predominantly Roman Catholic Ireland.
But anti-divorce campaigners were not optimistic that the nation’s second-highest court would overturn the result.
``This case has to be taken because of a query mark over the referendum. And clearly the court believes there is a case to be heard,″ said Jeremy Hennessy, spokesman for the Anti-Divorce Campaign.
``But what the honorable gentlemen in wigs will decide is hard to gauge. None of us are holding our breath.″