Ar dtús ba mhaith liom fáilte a chuir roimh an Aire. My motion relates to couples in the north east who wish to say "I do" but who must say "I would if I could but I cannot." Numerous constituents have contacted me about the lack of available registrars in the Louth-Meath area to perform civil marriage ceremonies. One constituent who wishes to marry on a Friday next March-April 2011 has been told it is not possible and has been offered a Tuesday as a possible day for her marriage.
The Central Statistics Office has stated the number of civil ceremonies will in future surpass the number of religious ceremonies. In 1996, the number of civil ceremonies stood at 6%. In 2006, this figure was 23%. Another issue of concern is the lack of off-site ceremonies. One's wedding day should be a special day for oneself, one's partner and extended family. Not everybody wants to marry in a registry office. People often chose to marry in off-site ceremonies. This should be provided for. The purpose of the Central Statistics Office work is to ensure we can plan ahead for the future. This issue requires serious consideration.
There is a lack of flexibility across many elements of the public sector. This issue needs to be addressed. I am aware it has been proposed that registrars be redeployed from one area to another to perform ceremonies but this is not always practical or feasible. I hope the Minister can address this issue. I have been told that in the Louth-Meath, Cavan-Monaghan region there are four registrars, one of whom is due to retire and another of whom is on maternity leave. This leaves only one registrar to perform ceremonies as one person needs to man the office. Perhaps the Minister will clarify this information. Civil ceremonies in Drogheda are performed on a Tuesday or Friday only and there is no one free to do off-site ceremonies on a Friday. Perhaps the Minister will outline if there is any way around this so people can be accommodated. I raise this issue to ensure the Government is planning for the future to ensure people, who give approximately one year's notice of their intention to marry are not told they must pick a Tuesday only to have their wedding ceremony. I look forward to the Minister's reply.