1985 State Papers: African housekeepers ‘were like wives’
Housekeepers in Africa were treated like wives in local custom, after they were "invited to assuage the loneliness of an otherwise drab existence" of Irishmen working there.
This revelation came in respect of a Nigerian woman's application for a passport.
The Department of Foreign Affairs had consulted with the office of then Attorney General John Rogers over the legal status of the woman's application and whether her parents, including her Irish-born father, were legally married.
An Irish missionary priest, based in Nigeria, had written in support of the woman's application for an Irish passport.
She had sought the passport on the basis her father was from County Down. He had emigrated to Nigeria and met her mother, a local woman.
The woman was seeking Irish citizenship after her father had left her mother, moved back to Ireland and married again.
The priest wrote: "In the early days, European women did not like to stay too long in the country.
"So a housekeeper was invited to assuage the loneliness of an otherwise drab existence.
"These ladies on whom a dowry or its equivalent was paid were regarded as wives, especially by the Itsekiri people.
"The children always took the father's name."
The Department of Foreign Affairs official said that while there would have been a marriage according to local law and custom, the marriage was also "almost certainly polygamous".