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Supreme Court approves polygamist’s first marriage

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A seven-judge Supreme Court, on Wednesday, 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. Although, his second marriage is not legal here and it may have legal consequences, the court added.

As per the reports of Independent.ie, the now 64-year-old man, while living in Lebanon had married his first wife in 1975, second in 1988 and has children with both. Under Lebanese law, a man can have up to four wives. He came here in 1998 and became an Irish citizen in 2002. He applied under family reunification provisions for his second wife to join him and she was granted permission in 2001. After getting his Irish citizenship, he applied for his first wife also to join him in Ireland and took the matter to High Court after the Minister for Justice refused the permission.

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. However, the court also added that the recognition of a polygamous marriage would be contrary to a fundamental constitutional principle, equality, and therefore contrary to public policy.

Urgent attention should be given to introducing legislation to clarify what rights and obligations apply to polygamous families living in Ireland, a Supreme Court judge said.

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Neha Katoch

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