The Irish Prime Minister has reiterated his promise to introduce laws recognising gay partnerships.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern insisted his government is committed to legislation by the next election, echoing a previous statement made to the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), earlier this month.

He told the Gay Community News magazine, “Ireland needs to legislate to provide a stable and supportive legal framework for same sex couples. That is the path this Government is now embarked upon.”

“It is our aim to make as much progress as possible on legislation to be enacted before the election next year.”

Mr Ahern added, “I would like to see a 21st century Ireland where the culture of discrimination and fear that blighted so many lives simply withers away. I want to see a country where one by one the law builds upon the progress we have made and deals with the important issues that remain.

“I want a country where our culture matures to the points where people’s sexuality is irrelevant as a negative factor in their lives. I hope that diversity, however, will be always remain a positive force.”

His remarks were welcomed by Irish gay groups such as the GLEN, Brian Sheehan told the Irish Examiner, “The commitment of the Taoiseach to legislate on same-sex relationships before the next election is an important step forward, and would greatly improve the status and quality of life for lesbian and gay people in a very short period of time.”

PinkNews.co.uk reported at the beginning of the month that Mr Ahern had announced plans to introduced gay marriage laws, he said: “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.”