The British Embassy in Dublin is controversially hosting civil partnerships.

The unions are illegal under Irish law but the embassy is legally British territory.

At least one partner has to be a British citizen. The move comes as growing pressure, both public and institutional mounts for the Republic to follow the lead of the UK and permit gay unions.

The Irish government, as yet does not recognise same sex unions. This follows controversy following the marriage of Irish lesbians Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan in Canada and the failure of the Irish government to recognise same sex weddings.

So far five couples have been wed in a public space on the grounds of the Embassy and so far no objectors have ruined the occasions.

The Irish justice minister, Michael McDowell, has also appeared to be keen to move away from the traditionally conservative past but reminded people that this would require a change in the Irish constitution.

Earlier this year Irish PM Bertie Ahern gave his backing for civil partnership laws, stating that the government is unequivocally in favour of treating gays and lesbians equally.