Solicitors should be allowed to perform civil wedding ceremonies when marriage is opened to gay couples, a lawyer has urged.
Bill Holohan of Holohan Law said an amendment could be made to the draft Marriages Bill allowing 245 notaries public to apply to be registered as marriage solemnisers.
A notary public is a public officer constituted by law to deal with non-contentious matters and most are practising solicitors.
Mr Holohan, himself a notary public, said it was “accepted” that religious/faith marriage solemnisers would not facilitate same-sex marriages.
He said there were only 122 registered non-religious/non-faith marriage solemnisers and most were HSE employees who did not perform weekend ceremonies.
And, said Mr Holohan, trying to get a solemniser to move to a non-registry office venue was a major challenge as they would all want to leave their office and get back, all within the office hours.
“Anyone who would have a romantic notion of getting married on the beach at Dún Chaoin in Kerry with the setting sun framing the Blaskets or getting married anywhere at midnight under a full moon, or any time after 5pm on a Friday or at the weekend, had better think about getting married abroad,” said Mr Holohan.
“There are some humanist solemnisers, but not a lot, and they are under pressure trying to cater for the demand.”
While there are around 5,600 religious/faith marriage solemnisers, more couples wanted to be married by non-faith solemnisers.
Mr Holohan said there was an average of 2.6 marriages for each faith solemniser last year and 57.87 for each non-faith solemniser.
Couples wanting a civil marriage ceremony must make an appointment to attend a registrar of civil marriage. However, Mr Holohan said that a major challenge is getting a date: There is a nine-month delay at the moment.
And while there are 122 non-religious/faith solemnisers they were unevenly spread throughout the country. Cork County, the largest county in Ireland, had only three, while Galway had nine.
“Even Louth, the smallest county, has six — three more than Cork. Cork City has six. Dublin City has 28,” said Mr Holohan.
The total number of marriages has increased from 21,346 in 2009 to 22,033 last year. There were 15,126 religious marriages in 209 and 14,972 last year. In 2009 there were 6,220 civil marriages and 6,167 last year.
“Most notaries public are also practising solicitors and would have no difficulty in accommodating out-of-hours, evening or weekend ceremonies,” said Mr Holohan.
A spokesperson for the Department of Social Protection said the figures stated by Mr Holohan were taken from the registrar general’s annual report for 2014.
However, the spokesperson said the registrar general, Kieran Feely, who is in charge of managing the State’s marriage registration system, had no further comment to make.
For a wedding to be legally recognised it must be solemnised by a person approved to do so by the registrar general.
While the HSE is responsible for day-to-day delivery of the Civil Registration Service, the Department of Social Protection is in charge of policy in the area.
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