The Irish Department of Justice has revealed that of the 4,000 submissions to their working group on domestic partnership, most are opposed to changing the law.

The group was established by the Justice Minister, Michael McDowell, to examine the issue of how a partnership would be defined and which benefits will be extended to gay and lesbian couples. It is due to report in October.

Under consideration are pension rights and tax relief for unmarried couples, immigration rights and protection against domestic violence.

Gay rights in Ireland have advanced significantly since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1993.

It is currently illegal to discriminate in employment, vocational training, advertising, collective agreements, the provision of goods and services.

The current President of the Republic of Ireland, Mary McAleese, was a founder member of The Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform in the 1970′s.

The Justice Department revealed that over 4,000 submissions have been received from people who want to see no change in the law.

However, there is broad political consensus on the need for more protection for gay couples, so it almost certain a form of legally recognised gay or lesbian partnership will eventually become law.

There is already a legal challenge, brought by a lesbian couple who legally married in Canada. They were unable to file a joint tax return, and argue that the ban on same-sex marriage violates the 1937 Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case is due to be heard before the Irish High Court On October 3rd 2006

Article 41 of the Irish constitution says the institution of marriage is to be protected, but does not define what marriage is.