Ireland’s first civil partnerships have taken place early and in secret

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The first civil partnerships in Ireland have already taken place, more than a month earlier than the planned introduction of the ceremonies. It is understood that at least one member of both couples involved are suffering from serious illnesses with a risk of that one may die before the three month notice period for a civil partnership would elapse.

The first couple’s civil partnership was registered on 7th February 2011 and a second, on the 11th of February. Both couples were male.

The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act, 2010 came into force on January 1st 2011 and requires a minimum of three months notice between the application for a civil partnership and the date of the ceremony. However, a judge can waive the notice perioid on compassionate grounds, primarily the serious illness of one of the partners.

Tiernan Brady of the Gay and Lesbian Network told the Sunday Times that celebration of the first two partnerships were historic milestones. “It’s really fantastic,” he said. “It’s the culmination of a long process. It’s great to have state recognition for these partnerships. It’s a gigantic leap forward for Ireland. Civil partnership addresses real needs for real couples.”

A gay couple who had a civil partnership in Northern Ireland and later became naturalised as Irish citizens, became the first officially recognised civil partners in the state last month.

Civil partnerships offer some of the same rights to property and pensions as marriage but do not have the same tax status. This element was to have been confirmed in a finance bill that has now been curtailed as a result of Ireland’s general election on February 25th. All parties have pledged to introduce the changes to taxation law after the election. However, it is not known if the changes will be retrospective and cover the couples who have already registered their partnership, should one of the pair die.

Like Britain, many campaigners say civil partnerships are not enough and the Labour party has pledged in its manifesto to hold a referendum to decide on the introduction of same-sex marriages. The Labour party has also pledged to allow gay couples to jointly adopt children.

In Britain, the first civil partnership to be registered involved a terminally ill man, who was given special dispensation to ignore the fifteen day notice period of a civil partnership.