Sunday 18 February 2018

Fewer church bells ring out for weddings, report shows

Rise in numbers of civil marriages as birth rate continues to drop steadily

The proportion of civil marriages is on the increase and the rate of religious marriages fell from about 71pc of the total in 2009 to 68pc last year
The proportion of civil marriages is on the increase and the rate of religious marriages fell from about 71pc of the total in 2009 to 68pc last year
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

The marriage referendum result set Ireland's stock soaring across the world - and it seems the romance is not just limited to same-sex couples.

The number of marriages rose steadily last year, with 22,033 nuptials taking place, up from 20,670 the year before, an increase of 6.6pc.

According to the Annual Report of the Registrar General, Kieran Feely, traditional church weddings are still the ceremony of choice for most Irish couples, accounting for 14,972 marriages in 2014.

However, the proportion of civil marriages is on the increase and the rate of religious marriages fell from about 71pc of the total in 2009 to 68pc last year.

"There has been a marked increase in the number of civil marriages over a lengthy period," the report said.

A further 4pc of marriages were defined as "secular".

In a breakdown, the statistics show that 4,195 civil marriages took place at a registrar's office, while 1,972 took place at an outside venue - including hotels, stately homes, civic buildings and restaurants.

This prompted the Registrar General to observe that "clearly, the decision to introduce a choice of venues for civil marriages has proved very popular", with 32pc of civil marriages taking place at outside venues in 2014.

However, the report noted: "The solemnisation of marriages at outside venues is very time-consuming as registrars often have to travel considerable distances to venues in rural areas and have to contend with traffic congestion in major urban centres."

Elsewhere, the figures show that the HSE lost two civil solemnisers in the last year, down from 107 in 2013 to 105 last year.

The Registrar General notes that there has been a significant shift in the composition of marriages, between religious and civil, in recent years, with the number of religious marriages as a proportion of total marriages falling from approximately 71pc in 2009 to 68pc in 2014.

In 1996 there were 928 civil marriages, or 6pc of the total, rising to 18pc in 2002 and to 22pc in 2005.

The proportion of civil marriages for 2009 increased considerably to 29pc and this trend has been maintained, the Registrar said.


With 2014 the first full year that secular marriages were recognised under statute, the Registrar says it is noteworthy that of the 1,363 additional marriages registered in 2014 over the previous year, 29pc were religious, while 71pc were civil or secular.

The number of civil partnerships registered last year stood at 392, with most among male same-sex couples, at 242, and 150 among females.

Most were aged 31-40, followed by those aged 21-30. A small, but significant, number, at 31 individuals, were in the 61-70 age group.

A dash of cold water on the romance front came with the Registrar's findings about anecdotal evidence of marriages of convenience. Figures show a rise in non-Irish EU nationals marrying non-EU nationals, at over 2,200 last year, with the most prevalent country of the non-EU spouse being the United States, followed by Australia and Brazil.

The report says that "while it would be wrong to characterise all marriages between EU and non-EU nationals as marriages of convenience, the relatively low rate of conversion of notices of intention to marry to actual marriage would suggest that marriages of convenience are a significant problem".

It notes that while the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act of 2014 includes measures to prevent marriages of convenience, "stratagems ... to avoid immigration controls are many and varied and it is unrealistic to expect that any single measure will solve the problem".

Meanwhile 67,750 births were registered, with the Registrar noting that the growth in births over the past decade-and-a-half has been "very substantial".

However, the figures are confirmation that the baby boom period is over, with the declines of 2012, 2013 and 2014 being "very substantial".

The number of births last year was 11pc less than the most fertile year, 2008.

The year 2012 was the first year in which the number of births declined significantly since 1994, while the number of adoptions registered was minute, at just 112 last year.

Deaths remained relatively "static" in 2014, continuing a trend since 2000, with 29,638 deaths registered.

Some 8,514 coroners' certificates were issued, not necessarily for deaths which had taken place last year.

The report notes that the number of deaths registered on foot of a coroner's certificate has risen significantly in recent years, now representing 29pc of all deaths registered.

Deaths in suspicious circumstances are referred to a coroner, but the report explains the increase is mainly due to coroners requesting that deaths due to hospital-acquired infection in nursing homes are referred to them as a matter of course.

Irish Independent

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