The results of Census 2011 released this week have revealed that the number of divorcees has soared by 150 percent in the past decade to 87,770. This can be evidenced from the results of the 2002 census, the first census to be conducted following the introduction of divorce in Ireland in 1996, inside which detailed a figure of 35,059 divorcees.
In contrast to the number of divorcees, the number of separated people has marginally increased to 116,194 from 107,263 five years previous.
Expectedly, resultant of an increase in the divorce rate was an increase in the marital breakdown rate. In 2006 the marital breakdown rate was 8.7%, and this has now risen to 9.7% in 2011.
Nationwide, there was an increase of 21,800 since 2006 of co-habiting couples, with 143,600 of couples favouring co-habitation as opposed to marriage.
But all of the above are mere statistics. The reasons and the effects of divorce remains a topic largely undiscussed in Ireland. The findings by the Central Statistics Office give us reason to allow these statistics occupy the headlines, but only for a matter of days, until they become the taboo subject which will only rear its ugly head again when the next set of Census results are released.
Even then the means in which they are released is a little deceiving, if you add together the number of divorcees, people separated, and those who remarried after divorce, the number jumps to a quarter of a million. Now that’s a real headline grabber! Albeit comparative to other countries the marital breakdown rate in Ireland still remains relatively low.
Today I ask, why is there no discussion surrounding these figures? Why aren’t the government questioning the increase in divorce rates? And why is no one delving into the possible effects divorce can have on both parent and child?
Whilst reported nationwide as a mere statistic, divorce is much more. It can be for many, that lasting scar which remains unhealed for years to come. The number of children who are affected by martial breakups remains unreported and research suggesting the damage it causes children has been published on countless occasions, the impact it can have on a child’s educational attainment in the future is significant, as teachers can notice a change in a child’s behaviour subsequent to a marital breakup.
On a personal note, I am a by-product of a bitter and acrimonious martial break up, but I didn’t allow it to affect my studies. In fact, following the news, I went in to school and sat my Junior Certificate exams the next morning – my education achievement remained, thankfully, unaffected.
However it has been noted that divorce leads to a mistrust of marriage by those affected, and to that I would concur. It is this which is believed to be a factor which has contributed to the falling rates of marriages in western countries. For children who experience divorce, are reluctant to ever subject themselves to something which would lead to that experience ever again. Once bitten, twice shy as they say. This also points to the reasoning behind the increase in cohabitation in western countries including Ireland – and whilst we worry about divorce rates, further research has suggested that cohabiting parents are twice as likely to break up as married parents.
So what can we do in Ireland? Re-enact our much loved ‘brush it under the carpet’ attitude? Isn’t that where the topic of abortion and other controversial topics remain? Or utilise these figures as a wake-up call.
Surely no society wants to boast about soaring divorce rates, surely no society wants children to be affected in the long term from such an experience, and surely the government can side step talks of the bank bailouts for one day in the Dail to address a humane aspect of life here in Ireland and one effecting adults, children, and the wider society alike?
I don’t know about you Enda, but I sure am getting uncomfortable with these figures!!