Thursday 14 December 2017

Law must 'regard' polygamy reality

Stock photo
Stock photo

Tim Healy

Polygamous marriages may have "legal consequences" in Ireland - without actually being recognised under Irish law.

A seven-judge Supreme Court sitting yesterday unanimously ruled that the first marriage of a man living here with two wives, both of whom he married in his native Lebanon, is valid under Irish law.

While his second marriage was not valid here, it may have legal consequences, the court said.

The case was rooted in immigration and it "may be desirable" to have some regard to the reality of family bonds, the court said.

The now 64-year-old man, while living in Lebanon, married his first wife in 1975 and his second in 1988 and has children with both.

Under Lebanese law, a man can have up to four wives. He first came here in 1998.

A marriage that is "potentially" polygamous is capable of being recognised under Irish law.

This would occur in the case where a man has one wife and could take a second wife under the legal system of his native country, but has not yet done so.

There was no bar in public policy to recognising this first marriage as legal in Ireland, even if the man subsequently takes a second wife, the court said.

Recognition of an "actually" polygamous marriage would be contrary to a fundamental constitutional principle, equality, and therefore contrary to public policy, the court said.

In finding the second marriage not valid under Irish law, it said the institution of polygamy is not contemplated by the Constitution and is contrary to principles of various international instruments.

Giving legal recognition to such a structure would "give legal effect to discrimination and subordination in a relationship where the principle of equality should hold sway".

Irish Independent

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