The Catholic Bishops' Marriage Care Service, Accord, has announced it is to implement compulsory redundancies for approximately one-third of its staff.

It blamed cuts in Government funding for the move.

In a statement, the hierarchy's Communications Office announced that four-and-a half of Accord's 12 full-time equivalent posts are to disappear at the end of February.

President of the service Bishop Christopher Jones expressed deep regret at what he called "the dramatic reduction".

But said the organisation was left with no option due to a loss of exchequer grants since 2010 amounting to €900,000 a year.

Bishop Jones said that next year, the amount of grant aid for Accord’s central office in Maynooth will be reduced to approximately €700,000.

In the past a government subvention had paid overheads and salaries for its nine full-time and five part-time staff, including four regional officers outside Dublin.

Bishop Jones said the organisation is engaged in a process to finalise new arrangements, which will take effect early next February.

He added that redundancies at any time are very difficult for all involved but particularly so at Christmas.

But he said the service had done its best to keep job losses to a minimum and vowed to endeavour to continue to meet the ever-increasing demand on its marriage education and counselling services in what he called "these economically challenging times."

Dr Jones acknowledged what he called "the vital work" that Accord’s almost 800 professionally trained and committed volunteers provide in supporting marriage and family life in Ireland. 

And he thanked those who would be losing their jobs for giving what he called "such generous service in Accord central office".

All couples intending to marry in the Catholic Church are expected to complete a pre-marriage course which is generally provided by ACCORD.

In 2012 ACCORD delivered over 50,000 counselling hours to marriages in crisis, prepared 7,115 couples for marriage in the Church and provided a schools' relationships education programme for 31,000 pupils.

It operates in 57 centres throughout the island of Ireland.