Dublin (AFP) - Ireland will hold a referendum in May on relaxing its strict divorce laws, the government said Tuesday, the latest vote aimed at liberalising social rules in the Catholic country.
Couples are currently required under constitutional law to live separately for four out of the five previous years before they can be granted a divorce.
"Some marriages do break down irreconcilably, causing immense sadness and stress for all concerned," said justice minister Charles Flanagan.
"The government wishes to ensure that the process for obtaining a divorce is fair, dignified and humane and allows both parties to move forward with their lives within a reasonable timeframe."
If a majority vote to amend the constitution, the government intends to introduce legislation shortening the mandated separation time -- the so-called "pause period" -- to two out of the three previous years.
But there is likely to be resistance in parliament over any waiting period restrictions being enforced, given that divorces in neighbouring Great Britain can be secured in a matter of months.
Last May, a landslide referendum saw Ireland vote 66 percent in favour of repealing its constitutional ban on abortions.
And in October, voters lifted a rarely enforced constitutional ban on blasphemy.
The law outlining the "pause period" for divorces was introduced following a 1995 referendum, when Ireland backed the legalisation 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent.