Debating divorce: moral conflict in Ireland
In 1986 a national opinion poll indicated that over half of Irish voters favored an upcoming referendum to remove the constitutional ban on divorce. Yet, after nine weeks of vigorous debate during which forces on both sides of the issue presented their cases to the public, the amendment was defeated. In Debating Divorce, Michele Dillon uses the divorce referendum debate in Ireland as a base from which to explore the long-standing sociological preoccupation with how societies decide questions of values. Focusing on culture and moral conflict, she examines the stances adopted by the major players in the debate: the government and the political parties, the Catholic church, women, the print and broadcast media, and activists on both sides. Although the issues of moral conflict that Dillon discusses have special relevance in demarcating Irish cultural values, they also apply to how people in general reason about morals and values. The author highlights the nature of moral discourse, the use of contradictory arguments in moral reasoning, the difficulty of trying to shift moral paradigms during nonrevolutionary times, and the impossibility of keeping facts and values distinct as people grapple with conflicting moral claims. Examining the divorce question within historical themes of economic insecurity and Catholic identity, Dillon argues that the discourses articulated during the debate illustrate a universal tension between the forces of tradition and those of modernity. She dissects Irish opposition to divorce in terms of current challenges to rationality and its association with progress and goodness. Debating Divorce will appeal to sociologists and scholars of Irish studies, communication, culture, and religion, as well as to general readers with an interest in Ireland or moral discourse.
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Irish Cultural Themes
Arguing about Divorce
Women and the Divorce Campaign
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