Irish courts face 'bedlam' after divorce reform

The Irish court system looks set to be swamped by tens of thousands of couples seeking divorce when it is legalised this autumn.

Divorce has been banned in the Republic for the past 70 years but at least 40,000 couples in the country have won judicial separations and no one knows how many of these will now seek a divorce.

Irish Bar Council chair James Nugent predicts that 10,000 divorce applications are likely as soon as the legislation is passed.

There is already an 18-month waiting list for separation cases because of a huge backlog. Nugent said extra judges would have to be appointed if the courts were not to be swamped.

Willie O'Dea, a former minister in the justice department, said there would be “bedlam in the courts” unless the system was improved and streamlined.

The expected divorce rush could also leave the Irish taxpayer facing a hefty bill because legal aid will be available for those on limited income. Some estimates predict the sum could be as high as £30 million over the next four years.