Irish president Mary McAleese signed the country’s civil partnerships bill into law yesterday.

It gives gay couples almost all of the rights of marriage.

The bill passed in the Dail without a vote and was approved by senators in the Seanad last week.

However, gay couples will not be able to have civil partnerships until January, as tax and social welfare changes have to be made by the departments of Finance and Social Protection.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network has welcomed the change in law, although it has repeated concerns that there is not enough recognition and support of children whose parents are gay.

The rights the bill will give include protections and obligations across areas such as protection of the couple’s shared home, domestic violence, residential tenancies, succession, refugee law, pensions, taxation, social welfare and immigration.