Accord publishes 2018 returns for its marriage preparation courses and for marriage and relationship counselling

12 Feb 2019

  • Photocall today with Bishop Denis Nulty blessing an engaged couple at the Shrine of Saint Valentine in Dublin

Ahead of the Feast of Saint Valentine this Thursday, 14 February, Bishop Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin and President of Accord Catholic Marriage Care Service CLG, will bless engaged couple Ms Emer Duffy from Rathfarnham, Dublin 16 and Mr Killian Casey from Ballyboden, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16 at the Shrine of the holy relics of Saint Valentine today in the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitefriar Street, in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

Newly released returns for Accord in 2018 show that 16,048 individuals attended its marriage preparation courses across the island of Ireland in 2018.  

Separately, Accord counsellors provided 24,180 counselling sessions to individuals and couples during 2018 throughout Ireland, north and south.  Please see below five-year bar charts and data tables which give a breakdown of the services provided by Accord on a regional basis as well as common problem areas in relationships which have been advised to Accord counsellors by clients.

Also published below is new research undertaken by Maynooth University analysing ‘Client Demographics, Needs Assessment and Outcomes’ and which is based on feedback from Accord counselling sessions.

Notes to Editors

  • Photographs from the blessing of the engaged couple will be available to media from John McElroy on +353 (0) 87 241 6985 and [email protected].
  • According to Killian, “We first met while we were both working for Dell EMC in 2012 but our friendship didn’t blossom until meeting up socially after a Dublin GAA game in Croke Park.  We soon became strongly emotionally attached and our relationship has grown over the intervening years.  We share many interests in life such as GAA, history, culture, travel and family.”  Killian proposed to Emer at a romantic restaurant in Spain in October 2018 with a ‘promise ring’.  The couple then booked a trip to Dubai in November where they shared some great moments including picking the real engagement ring.
  • Father Simon Nolan, O.Carm is Prior, and Father Seán Ford, O.Carm is Parish Priest, of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Dublin where the holy relics of Saint Valentine are interred.  Saint Valentine, a priest in ancient Rome, is regarded as the patron saint of couples in love, preparing for marriage and of married life.  According to tradition, Saint Valentine was martyred on 14 February 250 AD.  In 1836 relics that were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina, near Rome, were identified as Saint Valentine’s.  These relics were placed in a casket, donated by Pope Gregory XVI, and transported to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin where they continue to be venerated by the faithful to this day.
  • The first Accord centre in Ireland was established in 1962 at Saint Mary’s Parish, Belfast, in the Diocese of Down & Connor.  Up until recently Accord was an agency of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and operated as an unincorporated association.  Since 2017, Accord Catholic Marriage Care Service has changed its governance structure to operate as three distinct companies limited by guarantee.  These companies are known as Accord Northern Ireland Catholic Marriage Care Service CLG (Accord NI CLG); Accord Dublin Catholic Marriage Care Service CLG (Accord Dublin CLG); and, Accord Catholic Marriage Care Service CLG (Accord CLG) which represents 34 Centres in the Republic of Ireland and Central Office in Maynooth. The three Accord companies currently operate in 54 centres throughout the island of Ireland – north and south – and are committed to providing a professional service serving the pastoral needs of individuals at different stages in their development in schools, through Relationship and Sexuality Education programmes; by helping couples prepare for the sacrament of marriage; and through providing support for couples and individuals through its marriage and relationship counselling service.  Accord’s marriage facilitators and marriage and relationship counsellors come from a wide variety of backgrounds and are trained and work under supervision in accordance with best practice.  Tusla, the Child and Family Agency (RoI) is a major funder of the two Accord companies in the Republic of Ireland.  Accord CLG also operates with the support of the Health Service Executive (RoI) and in Northern Ireland some funding comes from the Policy Unit of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (NI).
    • Accord Catholic Marriage Care Service: Sacramental Marriage Preparation Attendance; and, Marriage Counselling Sessions over the five years of 2014 to 2018: 
      These national figures are broken down on a company (ie regional) basis as follows:

Findings relating to couples who attended counselling with ACCORD


Common problem areas in relationships as advised to Accord counsellors by clients

      • Unresolved arguments and disagreements
      • Inappropriate behaviour during arguments including verbal and physical  behaviours
      • Satisfaction with sexual relationship  
      • Feeling criticised, insulted or ignored by partner
      • Concerns about separation
      • Lack of trust, closeness and affection
      • Ability to talk, and listen  to one another
      • Finances and financial management
      • Management of childcare and home duties causing problems
      • Depression experienced by either partner
      • Difficulties with extended families
      • Use of mobile technology and social media
      • Use of  alcohol, drugs and/or gambling
      • Loss or grief experienced by either partner
      • Children within earshot during heated arguments
      • Issue of culture, religion or values causing problems

Maynooth University research

Research for Accord Catholic Marriage, carried out between January 2016 and December 2017 by Researcher Mira Dobutowitsch, PhD student, Education Department, Maynooth University, on a sample of 3,000 clients on ‘Client Demographics, Needs Assessment and Outcomes’ of the counselling process has found that:

      • Communication and conflict have a strong correlation; clients with high levels of difficulty in one are likely to have high levels of difficulty in the other;
      • Males rate the question “Do you ever ignore or not listen to your partner” less positively than females indicating they are more likely to engage in this behaviour.
      • Males tend to rate problematic behaviour less negatively than females.
      • Males and females agree that technology/social media behaviour causes difficulty;
      • More males than females have concerns about their partner being in another close relationship, emotional or physical;
      • The most prevalent family issues are concerns about finances and separation;
      • Females are more likely to rate childcare and home duties as a problem;
      • Males and females don’t differ significantly on their views on conflict;
      • The issues rated most problematic in conflict are poor resolution of arguments and disagreements, frequency of arguments and frequency of yelling and shouting.

Outcomes of counselling

      • 75% of clients, whose data was reviewed, rated their relationships as improved;
      • Clients attending as couples improve a little more than those attending as individuals;
      • The area where most clients see improvement at the end of counselling is in the degree of happiness in their relationship.


For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444.