Green coalition will bring progress on gay marriage
Bertie Ahern will be sworn in as Taoiseach, or Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, today after the Green party agreed to join a coalition government under his leadership.
The formation of a new administration follows weeks of negotiations among the country’s political parties.
It is the first time the Greens will form part of the government Mr Ahern will have a majority of just one in the newly-elected Dail.
The Taoiseach is committed to bringing forward legislation to recognise same-sex relationships.
In February an attempt to legalise same sex unions in the Republic of Ireland was defeated.
The Irish government said that the bill proposed by the Labour party would not comply with the constitution, and said that they would introduce their own legislation later this year.
Justice Minister Michael McDowell told Irish MPs (called TDs) at the time that the state is constitutionally required to uphold the institution of marriage.
Mr McDowell lost his seat in last month’s elections.
Article 41 of the Irish constitution says the institution of marriage is to be protected, but does not define what marriage is.
Mr McDowell promised that the government would be bringing forward legislation to protect the rights of all unmarried couples, gay or straight.
They asked for opposition parties to give them six months to devise their own proposals.
The Labour TD who introduced the bill, Brendan Howlin, called the government’s actions shameful and some members of the government party were also critical.
Labour leader Pat Rabbitte called Mr McDowell’s speech: “a shameful, shallow, rowdy, incoherent, arrogant and bombastic farce.”
The defeated bill would have granted all of the same rights for same-sex couples as married couples currently enjoy.
Homosexuality was only decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland in 1993, but since then the country has embraced gay rights.
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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.
Last year Mr Ahern explained his views on homosexuality and said he wanted to attract more gay candidates to his Fianna Fail party.
“Our sexual orientation is not an incidental attribute. It is an essential part of who we are. All citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, stand equal in the eyes of our laws,” he said.
“Sexual orientation cannot, and must not, be the basis of a second-class citizenship. Our laws have changed, and will continue to change, to reflect this principle.”