Minister claims referendum excludes families based on ‘polygamous relationships’

Expanding family recognition to include those based on ‘durable relationships’ will not include those based on ‘polygamous relationships,’ said Minister Roderic O’Gorman in the Dáil yesterday.

The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth made the claim in response to repeated questioning from Independent TD, Michael McNamara.

The Clare TD envisaged it being an issue regarding people in polygamous marriages coming to Ireland from other States and seeking to bring family members with them.

However, the Minister replied that, “polygamous relationships have never been recognised under Irish law and, secondly, because a polygamous relationship is not one that represents a fundamental unit group of society. It is not one that represents a moral institution in Irish law and it is not durable”.

Mr McNamara responded that polygamous marriages have existed for centuries and are durable.

He added: “The reality is that we have absolutely no idea how this will be interpreted by the courts. We are making a change for the sake of it”.

After another denial by the Minister, the deputy asked if ‘durable’, “will mean ‘durable’ unless the ‘durable relationship’ is a ‘polygamous’ one, in which case it is ‘durable’ but we are not going to recognise it because we do not like its ‘durability’?”

The Minister replied that “durability” is not sufficient as a family also has to be “a natural and fundamental unit group of society and a moral institution”.

Deputy McNamara then asked: “Are we saying that some marriages are moral institutions and some are not? Are we saying that those  that are monogamous are, and those that are polygamous are not, even though they are, of course, moral institutions in other countries . . . ?”

The Irish Constitution restricts marriage to two people but it does not stop the State extending marriage-like rights to people in non-marital relationships.