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Family, Marriage & Gender Roles

Divorce has been legal since a highly contested constitutional amendment was approved in 1995, but Ireland still has one of the lowest divorce rates in the world. Abortion is explicitly illegal according to Ireland’s constitution, except to save the life of the mother. A 2015 referendum amended the constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Marriage ages in Ireland, once relatively high for men due to land tenure issues that delayed men’s ability to support a family, have moved steadily upward since hitting a low in 1975. In 2015, average marriage ages of grooms reached 35.3, and for brides reached 33.2. Those ages are the eighth highest among the 28 European countries identified. Two-thirds of weddings were church-officiated, with 56.7% of all marriages taking place under the auspices of the Catholic Church.1

A March, 2015 Eurobarometer report provides statistically reliable data on some issues of gender equality in Ireland, though it did not provide a country-by-country breakdown by gender.2 According to that survey, 75% “totally agree” and 20% "tend to agree" that "equality between men and women is a fundamental right."3 54% saw inequalities between men and women as “widespread,” and 70% saw them as less widespread than a decade before.4   

The Irish today fall on the more liberal end of the spectrum when it comes to the question of whether "family life suffers when the mother has a full-time job": 22% "totally agree," and 32% “tend to agree."5 And among their European peers they are slightly more likely than other nationals to agree that “men are much less competent than women at performing household tasks."6

Asked whether "a man must put his career ahead of looking after his young child" only 9% of Irish “totally agree,” and 24% "tend to agree." More than 66% of Europeans disagreed with the absent male breadwinner model of parenting model, compared with 61% of the Irish.7