Thousands of foreign couples that married in their respective national embassies in Ireland have had their marriages declared illegal by the Irish government.

The move by the Irish government has sparked diplomatic rows with non-EU and EU member states.

Spain is the current holder of the EU presidency and has been asked to resolve the issue with the Irish government.

Ireland's General Register Office has informed all foreign embassies that marriages performed in consulates will only be recognized if they conform to Irish law.

According to Irish law, a marriage must be performed by an authorized registrar and must take place in a licensed building which is open to the public. The law was introduced in November 2007 and all marriages that have taken place in an embassy since then are declared invalid.

The Polish embassy has performed over five hundred marriages and the Lithuanian embassy has performed more than one hundred. It is estimated that over 3,000 couples will be affected by the government’s decision to declare consulate marriages illegal.

“The problem is no one warned us that it was illegal to marry people at the embassy," says Natalia Baceviciene from the Lithuanian embassy.

The Irish government’s decision also has tax and inheritance repercussions, as
couples cannot register their child's name under the names of the married parents.

"Our son Kamil is two weeks old and we can only register his birth as single parents since the Irish Government does not recognize our marriage," said Polish mother Adam Goraj.

The EU and Department of Foreign Affairs are meeting to resolve the issue.