Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern asked the country’s President to dissolve Parliament yesterday.

A general election will be held on May 24th. It is expected to be a close race.

Last week a website was launched to raise awareness among the gay community of the forthcoming election.

Gay marriage is set to be an issue in the elections for the 166-seat Dáil Éireann.

Earlier this year an attempt by the opposition Labour party to bring forward legislation was blocked by the government.

www.TheGayVote.ie details the voting record of TDs(MPs) on the Civil Unions Bill.

The site will be updated as candidates and parties set out their views and policy positions with regards to gay rights.

Speaking of the formal launch of TheGayVote.ie last week, campaign coordinator David Cochrane said:

“With little differences between the political parties on taxation, health care and even stamp duty, TheGayVote wishes to highlight the differing views held by the parties when it comes to gay rights.

“Some parties want full gay marriage, some want civil unions, and some parties want nothing at all. Our campaign will seek to raise awareness of the website, which will highlight the differences between the parties on gay rights.”

The Labour party’s Civil Unions Bill was debated in the Dáil in February and was well received by all political parties represented.

The government argued that the proposed Bill was vulnerable to constitutional challenge and that it should be postponed pending the outcome of an appeal to the Supreme Court in the Zappone case.

A lesbian couple, Drs Katherine Zappone and Anne Louise Gilligan, lodged an appeal with the country’s Supreme Court earlier this month challenging the High Court’s decision that their Canadian marriage is not valid.

The government promised to bring forward legislation to protect the rights of all unmarried couples, gay or straight, after the election.

Homosexuality was only decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland in 1993, but since then the country has embraced gay rights.

Both discrimination and incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation are illegal.

A recent opinion poll found 84% in favour of some sort of recognition for lesbian and gay couples.

Northern Ireland, as part of the UK, has had same-sex civil partnerships since December 2005.