Sham marriages 'blight reputation'
Allegations that Ireland was slow to act against sham marriages blights the reputation of the country, Fine Gael has claimed.
The government must explain why it apparently took so long to clamp down on the practice, according to Sean Barrett TD, the party's spokesman on foreign affairs.
On Friday it emerged that the authorities have issued new guidelines to marriage registrars in a bid to halt residency-seeking men from outside the EU paying women from eastern Europe thousands of euros to marry them.
But the measures were introduced amid claims that the Latvian authorities are unhappy with the length of time it took to take action.
Mr Barrett said he will be demanding answers in the Dail next week.
"The suggestion by the Latvian authorities that Ireland was slow to take the issue of sham marriages seriously and that, for some time, we ignored the seriousness of the matter is a very strong allegation to make," he said. "While I am pleased that guidelines for registrars have now been introduced by Government to help wipe out the practice, I fail to understand how requests from other countries to deal with the matter were allegedly ignored for as long as has been suggested.
"I intend to raise this matter in the Dail on Tuesday so that the exact detail and circumstances surrounding the issue can be determined. Any situation which involves the exploitation of another person can not, and must not, be tolerated under any circumstance.
"The allegation that the Irish authorities failed to deal adequately, or indeed at all, with requests from Latvia to help stamp out the abuse of its citizens has extremely serious consequences for the reputation of our country."
A spokesman for the Department of Justice rejected the claim that the government had been slow to act. He said Minister Dermot Ahern had consistently raised the issue in Europe and had called for a tightening of EU regulations. "This has been right at the top of priorities for the minister," he said.
It also emerged that a team of gardai are to travel to Latvia in the coming weeks to liaise with their counterparts on the issue.