MORE than one in six Irish marriages could be a "sham" in an attempt to gain residency in the EU, according to a senior registrar.
One of the country's main marriage registrars, Dennis Prior, said that he had witnessed couples who were unable to speak to each other and required two interpreters at their ceremony while others often had no friends present.
Officials are now mooting the introduction of an interview similar to that which green card holders undergo in the United States.
However, registrars have only limited powers to block marriages and gardai are investigating alleged bogus marriages which are often arranged by failed asylum seekers or former students who no longer have permission to remain in Ireland.
Mr Prior, superintendent registrar for the HSE eastern area, said that the increase in suspected sham marriages, which is now estimated at several hundred per year, was "disheartening and demoralising" for registrars.
Recent evidence from the Department of Justice outlined that the number of non-EU nationals applying for residency based on marriage to EU citizens had doubled since 2006.
It is understood that young women from poor eastern Europe states can be paid up to €5,000 to marry a non-EU national, in an attempt to exploit an EU directive giving family members of EU citizens freedom to live in the union.
Pakistanis have made 1,235 applications since 2002 -- 393 of which are based on marriage to Latvians while Nigerians and Indians make up a particularly large proportion of marriages to EU citizens, particularly from states such as Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
Mr Prior receives on average one request each week for support from registrars who suspected the marriages they were solemnising were a sham, he said in an Irish Times interview.
The General Register Office and the Department of Social Protection are now drafting new guidelines for registrars to follow in identifying sham marriages and were considering changing the interview process for marriages.
In recent times, gardai have ramped up their investigation into bogus marriages.