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Ireland's 'first same-sex marriage' couple told they cannot wed

Published 17/11/2015

Dolores Murphy and Mabel Stoop-Murphy with their son James
Dolores Murphy and Mabel Stoop-Murphy with their son James

A gay Irish couple admitted their dream to marry turned into a nightmare after bureaucratic confusion resulted in their marriage having to be postponed at the steps of the registry office.

Dolores Murphy and Mabel Stoop-Murphy were set to become one of the first same-sex couples to wed under the Marriage Act 2015 in Cork.

The couple with Dolores’s father Con on the day of their civil partnership ceremony in 2011
The couple with Dolores’s father Con on the day of their civil partnership ceremony in 2011

However, the couple were informed by Cork Registry Office staff that, because the necessary 24 hours had not elapsed since they signed formal notification forms, the wedding could not proceed.

The shocked couple were informed of the problem in the registry office surrounded by their witnesses and friends.

A celebratory wedding lunch with friends had to be cancelled.

The couple insisted they were informed several weeks ago that they could sign the forms and marry on the same day.

"We just don't know - we don't know," Dolores said."I am heartbroken. We are absolutely devastated by this," she added, fighting back tears.

"This was supposed to be the best day of our lives.

"But once again the Government has let us down. I'm sorry - I can't say anything more."

The couple were visibly devastated as they left the registry office and travelled home in a taxi.

(left to right) Erin Reddy, Dee Campbell and Helen McCarthy at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
(left to right) Erin Reddy, Dee Campbell and Helen McCarthy at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
People gather at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill (centre), known by his stage name as Panti Bliss has his photo taken with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald (right) at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes continue to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
The sun shines as people gather at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Erin Reddy (left) and Dee Campbell at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
A gay marriage supporter kisses her rosary beads at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Bridget Hogg with a cardboard cutout of comedy creation Mrs Brown at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Paul Bonass (left) and Luke Hoare Greene share a kiss at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Jaime Nanci (left) and Michael Barron who were married in Cape Town five years ago at the RDS in Dublin, re-act as early patterns suggest that the campaign to extend the right to marry to same-sex couples will succeed in the referendum on same-sex marriage. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Sean O Tarpaigh, a yes campaigner and Irish language teacher, at the same-sex marriage referendum count centre at Dublin Castle. Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, known by his stage name as Panti Bliss arrives at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes continue to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, known by his stage name as Panti Bliss arrives at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes continue to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, known by his stage name as Panti Bliss kisses Senator David Norris (left) as Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams looks on at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Ireland is set to enshrine the right to gay marriage in a historic world first. Key campaign groups fighting the rights reform conceded defeat, with results from around the country indicating a two to one majority of voters backing the constitutional change Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill (centre), known by his stage name as Panti Bliss with with Senator David Norris (left) and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes continue to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Ireland is set to enshrine the right to gay marriage in a historic world first. Key campaign groups fighting the rights reform conceded defeat, with results from around the country indicating a two to one majority of voters backing the constitutional change. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, known by his stage name as Panti Bliss arrives at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes continue to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Ireland is set to enshrine the right to gay marriage in a historic world first. Key campaign groups fighting the rights reform conceded defeat, with results from around the country indicating a two to one majority of voters backing the constitutional change. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People gather at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Seven month old Belle Duffy, held by her mother Deirdre Duffy as counting of votes continues in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age at the RDS in Dublin. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
YES voter Deirdre Duffy and her seventh month old daughter Belle, with YES campaigners (from left) Kristina Vaughan, Mark Dempsey, and Ger O'Keeffe as counting of votes continues in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age at the RDS in Dublin. Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Senator David Norris is welcomed by Andrew Hyland of YES Equality (left) as he arrives at the RDS as counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age gets under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Ballot boxes are emptied as counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age is under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Official tally Rhonda Donaghy and James McGrath wait for counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age to get under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Sorcha Nic Mhathuna waits for counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age to get under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Official tally Rhonda Donaghy waits for counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age to get under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Ballot boxes are unlocked as counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age to get under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning Saturday May 23, 2015Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age gets under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Official tally Rhonda Donaghy and James McGrath wait for counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age to get under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Senator David Norris arrives at the RDS as counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age get under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015 Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Newly married couple Anne Fox (nee Cole) and Vincent Fox kiss to celebrate their wedding and also show their support for the Yes campaign in favour of same-sex marriage before casting their votes at a polling station on May 22, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Newly married couple Anne Fox (nee Cole) and Vincent Fox celebrate their wedding day by showing their support for the Yes campaign in favour of same-sex marriage as they cast their votes at a polling station on May 22, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
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Sister Loreto Ryan of the Sisters of Charity leaves after voting at a polling station in Drumcondra, north Dublin on May 22, 2015. Ireland took to the polls today to vote on whether same-sex marriage should be legal, in a referendum that has exposed sharp divisions between communities in this traditionally Catholic nation.
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Pedestrians walk past a mural in favour of same-sex marriages in Dublin.
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Friends said registry office staff could not have been more helpful or sympathetic but said they were bound by the 24 hour rule which had been stipulated by national registry officials.

Under regulations introduced in 2004, registers have a five day period from when wedding notifications are signed until the ceremony.

However, registers have the discretion to shorten that period to 24 hours.

It cannot be reduced further.

The couple are free to marry from tomorrow (Wednesday) but it is now unclear whether they will proceed given the distress over today's confusion.

Dolores and Mable were accompanied by their friends and witnesses, Paula Healy and Patricia Mullane, as well as their son, James (2), to the Cork Registry Office.

Dolores is from Pouladuff Road in Cork while Mabel hails from South Africa.

The couple live in Cork with their numerous pet dogs and cats."All we ever wanted was to be treated like every other Irish couple that loves each other," Dolores said.

Critically, the marriage ceremony will offer Dolores legal rights to the little boy, James (2), that she is raising with Mabel.

Earlier, she had spoken of her excitement at her wedding day."It still feels like a bit of a dream. I feel like pinching myself almost to check that it is real," she said.

Dolores was also excited that she was going to wear the wedding band wore by her late mother on her own wedding day.

It was an equally special day for Mabel.

"To be honest, I doubted that this day would ever arrive."

Dolores and Mabel entered a civil partnership and that was celebrated akin to a wedding with Dolores’ father, Con ‘Sylvie’ Murphy, proudly walking both women down the aisle.

Sadly, Sylvie died in 2013.

“My dad knew Mabel for more than 10 years and he adored her. We’re both so sad that he won’t be here to share this special day with us.”

Typical of so many same-sex couples in Ireland, Dolores and Mabel did everything possible to have their relationship formally recognised.

They first exchanged solemn vows in a special ceremony and then entered a civil partnership when that became possible in Ireland from April 2011.

The couple want to transfer their partnership into a full marriage.

“We both met when we were working in Merchant’s Quay Shopping Centre in Cork in 2002.

"Mabel was working upstairs, we met one day and the rest is history,” Dolores said.

Ralph Riegel, Independent

Irish Independent

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