Ireland’s first public civil partnership ceremonies were due to take place this afternoon.

The law came into force on January 1st, although the vast majority of couples were required to give three months notice of their intent to tie the knot.

Six couples who obtained a special court exemption have had civil partnerships since February 7th. The couples, who all requested privacy, will have been granted exemptions on compassionate grounds, for example, when one partner is terminally ill.

Today, Dublin couple Hugh Walsh and Barry Dignam will be the first to have a civil partnership without a court exemption. Another couple is expected to follow them.

Kieran Rose, of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network said: “The first public civil partnership ceremonies in Ireland mark another great milestone for Ireland and for lesbian and gay people.

“It is a great day for the two couples, their families and friends, and we wish them much luck and happiness.”

He added: “Lesbian and gay couples have been waiting for years to have their relationships recognised and protected by the State. For the two couples today and all those who will enter civil partnerships over the coming months, this is a very significant advance.”

Another gay group, LGBT Noise, welcomed the first civil partnership but said that it was not equal to marriage.

LGBT Noise organiser Max Krzyzanowski said: “I’m very happy for Mr Dignam and Mr Walsh. But this is not equality. Civil partnership legislation perpetuates the idea that gay relationships are not as valid as straight ones.

“As equal citizens and residents of Ireland, the LGBT community demand full access to all the rights and protections of marriage; civil partnership is simply not good enough.”