Author of three collections published by Doire Press, in 2016 - 2018 Susan's poems have appeared, among elsewhere, in: The Cafe Review, Oregan, USA - Gather In, in a Special Irish Edition; Bosom Pals,Ed Marie Cadden (Doire Press, 2017) an anthology entirely in aid of Breast Cancer Research in the National UniveristyHospital, Galway and When They've Grown Another Me in Poetry Ireland Review, Dec 2018. January 2018 has seen her poems Commended in the Gregory O'Donoghue Poetry Competition.

She has been an invited reader of her poems at local readings in Galway, Cork and Dublin and at festivals, including the Belfast Book Festival, Cuirt International Festival of Literature and Clifden Arts Festival. Her poems have been read on radio.

Susan completed her degree in social science and qualified as a professional social worker in Trinity College, Dublin 1975. She was a psychotherapist, trainer, facilitator and occasional consultant to organisations for over thirty years until her retirement in 2012. Drawing together her writing with her earlier skills she has written interviews and facilitated conversations mediated by poetry. She continues to work on a manuscript relating the story of starting out in poetry and a mid-life move West along with occasional other creative non-fiction pieces.

Her workshop Having a New Conversation: About Dreaming was listed on the The Cuirt International Festival of Literature Programme (2015) and she facilitates similar workshops on a variety of themes, discussed through the medium of poetry, regularly and occasionally in local community settings.

While a founding editor of Skylight 47 Susan interviewed: then Ireland Professor of Poetry, Harry Clifton; Kay Ryan, former US Poet Laureate invited to Ireland by Dromineer Literature Festival and Dani Gill who talks about curating The Cuirt International Literature Festival. Her most recent interview, of Maeve O'Sullivan, appears in The Honest Ulsterman February, 2018.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Low Rate of Irish Divorce. Is Austerity a Factor?

Opening Night of  Love & Marriage Revisited 

The Merriman Summer School, 2015.

     Former Supreme Judge, Catherine McGuinness,  blamed her love of the Culwick Choir - in which she continues to sing alongside the publicist for the Merriman Summer School - and her former husband’s association with the Merriman, for her invitation to Open the 2015 School last night, at Glor Theatre in Ennis, Co. Clare. Her commitment to working towards divorce legislation over a sustained period was mentioned twice from the floor - to applause from the audience. Those members staying in the Old Grand Hotel will be able to update their knowledge of the bible, she quipped, as there is a related seminar on offer there. She got a further laugh when she quoted the Church of Ireland Gazette, saying she is member of that church, 'I know you all read it weekly!'

      The first law allowing for Maintenance for women whose husbands are no longer with them was passed in 1976, the year after I graduated as a social worker. Listening to her mention of other laws passed, after long and arduous campaigns, was like listening to the social history of my lifetime to date. By the time the second Referendum on divorce was passed in 1995, by a small majority,  most of the legislation needed to sustain separated couples was already in place.

    This may account for the significantly low rate of divorce in Ireland. Tom Fahey, Professor of Social Policy at UCD School of Applied Social Science demonstrated that the peak came in the first few years afterwards. If the people who had already separated by the time divorce was available here were the only ones to have divorced since, it would account for the figures.

    Along with Spain and Italy, we are the only country to have a two-step process to divorce. The requirement that couples be separated first for a period of at least four years may be a deterrent. In the first instance because Separation Agreements need to be made (although they are not legally required) to enable couples to put some sort of arrangements in place for that period. They may not wish to re-visit those often hard won agreements lest conflict re-emerges and unnecessary difficulties are raised. There may be no real need for divorce until one party wants to re-marry, Judge McGuinness suggested.

    Members of the audience pointed out that the economic difficulties of recent years make it extremely difficult to contemplate divorce, or even separation. Living apart may not be a viable economic possibility. Another indicated research suggesting that austerity is putting severe pressure on marriages in Ireland. As the legislative details of divorce law were put into the Constitution rather than allowed for in accompanying legislation they would be very difficult to change here. We do, however, have a fairly liberal law – no-fault divorce – once the long separation period been seen through. Professor Tom Fahey pointed out that findings in relation to the reasons for such a low divorce rate in recent years are ambiguous. It is hard to ascertain the reason, particularly in the context of International comparisons. Italy and Spain have low rates also.

    I was sorry to hear, from a local Co. Clare solicitor trained in Mediation, that a lot of couples still do not go for mediation before engaging in what inevitably is an adversarial process once both parties have their separate lawyers. My own separation was amicably agreed with my former husband. We waited till quite late on to engage the advised separate lawyers (to ensure neither could later claim later they weren’t advised) and move on to arrange a divorce to ensure we didn’t get adversarial – at least until our children were further grown up. It worked for us but it’s not ideal. Once a third party – a potential new spouse for one partner is involved – things could get more complicated. The divorcing spouse wanting to re-marry could find themselves with conflicting loyalties. Mediation is by far the best route to follow if at all possible.

     Dr. Linda Connolly is Director of this year’s School. She is Chair of the Irish Social Sciences Platform and  a member of the Royal Irish Academy Social Sciences Committee.  She is a Sociologist and Director of the Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century  (ISS21) at UCC.

     The Merriman School continues until Sunday to consider the topic Love and Marriage Revisited through literature, sociology, history and music. You can attend individual events or join the school. 

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