The Republic Of Ireland will soon have its own civil partnership laws for the gay community, according to the Irish prime minister.

Bertie Ahern made the announcement yesterday at the opening of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network’s (GLEN) offices in Fumbally Court, Dublin.

The Taoiseach stated the government is unequivocally in favour of treating gays and lesbians equally, he said: “Our sexual orientation is not an incidental attribute. It is an essential part of who and what we are. All citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, stand equal in the eyes of our laws.

“Sexual orientation cannot, and must not, be the basis of a second-class citizenship. Our laws have changed, and will continue to change, to reflect this principle.”

He promised legislation on civil partnerships but pointed out that implementation of the law would be a lot harder compared to the United Kingdom, where the bill was enforced last December, he said: “Giving effect to this principle in legislation is necessarily complex and challenging. Legislating for civil partnerships requires thinking through a host of related matters, the British Civil Partnership Act, 2004 has 264 sections and 30 schedules. Moreover, our written constitution gives rise to complexities that did not arise in the British case.

“This challenge, however, is one that the Government is determined to meet. We are committed to legislating on this issue.”

He spoke of a new Working Group on Domestic Partnership, that will prepare an Options Paper for presentation by October this year. It will provide an analysis of the categories of partnerships and relationships outside of marriage to which legal effect and recognition might be given, consistent with constitutional provisions and taking other countries laws into account, he said.

The pledge will please the GLEN which has previously said a law on gay marriage was long overdue.

However, Mr Ahern was criticised by the opposition party, Fine Gael, for failing to provide a clear timetable for the plan.

The Republic of Ireland was one of the last Western European countries to legalise homosexuality in 1992.