In a short space of weeks, we received a number of complaints from aggrieved clients who, having served their notification of intention to marry, were refused permission to marry by local registrars. The cases concern EU nationals and their non-EEA partners who contacted us in a state of distress and anxiety having been advised that an objection to their marriage was raised and that their marriage would not be going ahead as planned.
In 2011 we issued proceedings regarding a similar situation involving an EU national and her husband who suffered sheer humiliation and deep distress when an objection was lodged in respect of their marriage on the morning of their wedding!! The bride and her husband-to-be were just about ready to commence celebrating their marriage before family and fiends, many of whom had flown to Ireland from abroad for the occasion. But the actual marriage took place months later following a court settlement resulting in the objection being lifted. Their day was ruined and their financial loss was significant.
Two years later we see the problem arising again although we managed to tackle this head on without resorting to the High Court. Our clients were advised that under the provisions of section 51(2) of the Civil Registration Act, 2004 that a registered solemniser shall not solemnise a marriage unless he/she is satisfied that the parties to the marriage understand the nature of the marriage ceremony and the declaration that they accept each other as husband and wife. In this case the registered solemniser was not satisfied that our clients understand the nature of their marriage ceremony and the declarations that they accept each other as husband and wife and you felt that an ‘offence’ may have been committed under section 51(2). An Garda Siochana were notified and asked to investigate a possible offence under this section. Which offence was the registrar referring to? This section does not refer to any offence that would have been applicable to our clients. The legislation as it stands does not cover any offence indicated by the Registrar.
The situation was previously fleshed out in court by Justice Hogan in Izmailovic & Anor -v- Commissioner of an Garda Siochana & Ors  IEHC 32 when the marriage of a couple was intercepted by the State and the groom arrested on the grounds that the Gardai believed his marriage was one of convenience. Justice Hogan concluded as follows: ‘ I quite appreciate that the decision in this case may present the authorities with very considerable difficulties in this problematic area. But, as I indicated at the hearing, if the law in this area is considered to be unsatisfactory, then it is, of course, in principle open to the Oireachtas and, if needs be, the Union legislature to address these questions. As this decision in its own way illustrates, the problems encountered here are difficult ones and present complex questions of public policy in relation to marriage and immigration. These, however, are ultimately policy questions which only the Oireachtas and, again if needs be, the Union legislature can resolve.’
Following a detailed complaint sent to the Registrar on behalf of our most recent clients in this matter, the objection was quickly lifted and they are free to marry. Although delighted with the outcome, the stress and anxiety suffered by our clients was considerable and is something they now want to put behind them.