In recent years same-sex marriages and civil unions have become the norm in many jurisdictions around the world. Within Europe nearly every country has discussed laws dealing with same-sex marriage and civil unions. Belgium, Holland and now Spain all allow same-sex marriages while many other countries allow civil unions or give gay couples some rights. These countries are very varied from France, the UK (next December) to the Scandinavian countries.
In Ireland it is a very different story. Many people are opposed to civil unions as they see it as an attack on the institution of marriage which is protected by the constitution. These groups are mainly very catholic groups who still believe that homosexuality is a sin.
Independent Senator David Norris did introduce a Civil Partnership Bill, as a private members bill, which was passed by Séanad Eireann (upper house of Parliament), but has been suspended by the Government.
Many Irish political parties claim to support gay rights including civil unions. Fine Gael at the last election did include a proposal on civil unions in their manifesto. Fine Gale is one the only openly gay councillor with Peter Kelly on Cork County Council.
The Labour Party is the only political party in Ireland that has an LGBT wing of the party. This gives LGBT Labour Party members a better voice within the party. Sinn Fein to have had proposals for civil unions but with Sinn Fein being republican and ultra Catholic many people are dubious over their efforts to gain votes of the LGBT electorate.
Fianna Fail are very much still under the thumb of the Bishops when it comes to issues of ‘morality’. Many members of Fianna Fail may support civil unions or domestic partnership rights but the party leadership are very wary of upsetting the Catholic Church.
The prospects of Ireland introducing civil unions or domestic partnerships in the near future and very slim, but maybe sometime in the future gay couples will be given rights that bring them closer to the rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples.