Embargo puts curb on summer brides
COUPLES in two counties will be unable to get married in civil ceremonies this summer because the HSE is barred from replacing two registrars.
The authority has confirmed that there will be no registrar in either Louth or Meath from June to perform civil marriages.
It has now stopped taking further bookings beyond that month.
The two registrars cannot be replaced because of the current government embargo on recruitment in the public service. However, the HSE says couples in the two affected counties can still make bookings for civil marriages in either Cavan or Monaghan.
Couples can also organise ceremonies with a priest at a venue of their choice.
When bride-to-be Sandra McKeever, from Drogheda, rang the registrar's office for Co Louth to enquire about booking her wedding, she was told there were just three days available until the end of June.
She said: "I was also told that because the registrar would be away on leave during July and August that I couldn't get married during the summer."
As it happens, a May date was available that suits Sandra and her fiancé, Michael Reade.
She said: "I'm very relieved that we managed to get a date for our wedding, but I can't imagine how disappointing it must be for other couples."
The HSE said one registrar was retiring and another was going on planned leave. It added: "Under the government moratorium, prior sanction is required to fill these posts. Currently, this approval is being sought."
Civil weddings are becoming more popular.
Figures released recently by the Central Statistics Office show that the proportion of civil ceremonies went up from just 6pc in 1996 to more than 23pc in 2006.
The HSE says couples in Louth and Meath can check back with it in March for an update on the situation.
Louth TD Fergus O'Dowd commented: "This is just bureaucracy gone mad and it needs an urgent 'Yes' from the minister for health."
Drogheda councillor Ged Nash (Lab) said it would cause heartbreak for couples, many of whom would have spent thousands on planning their weddings.