New law may be required to legalise up to 3,000 marriages at embassies


THE GOVERNMENT has said it may have to pass new legislation to legalise the marriages of up to 3,000 foreign couples, who married at their country’s embassies in Dublin.

But it warned yesterday that there are complicated legal issues involved in registering the marriages, which have been deemed illegal because no official registrar was present at the ceremonies.

“It is a complex matter which does require careful consideration. I have asked my officials in the Department of Social and Family Affairs to work with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the General Registrars Office in order to bring about a resolution of the situation for the couples concerned,” said Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin.

Last week the Government wrote to all foreign missions in the Republic to inform them that any marriages performed without an official registrar were invalid and illegal under Irish law.

It issued the guidance following concerns raised by foreign embassies that some of their citizens were having problems registering children as a married couple.

Polish ambassador to Ireland Tadeusz Szumowski told RTÉ about 1,000 couples had been married at the Polish embassy in Dublin until it stopped holding weddings earlier this year.

He said the embassy had never been informed by the Irish authorities that it was illegal to perform marriages at embassies. He said the marriages would be recognised as legal in Poland and he thought they would also be considered legal in other countries.

The Department of Social and Family Affairs said foreign embassies had not been notifying the General Register’s Office that they were holding marriage ceremonies and the issue only came to light last year.