Gay couple hail milestone wedding

One of the first gay couples in Ireland to officially tie the knot under new laws have hailed their wedding as an emotional milestone.

One of the first gay couples in Ireland to officially tie the knot under new laws have hailed their wedding as an emotional milestone.

Barry Dignam and Hugh Walsh said their simple civil partnership ceremony at a register office in Dublin signalled how far the country has come on in recent years.

They already set their sights on full marriage, allowing the same rights and protections afforded to heterosexual partners, as the next landmark in a struggle for equality.

“We just need that little bit more of a push now,” said a beaming Mr Dignam alongside his partner Hugh, moments after the ceremony.

“Now that people realise the sky is not going to fall down, that push for civil marriage is not a far journey at all.”

The pair said they have been waiting 17 years to formalise their commitment to each other in the eyes of the State.

“When we met it was illegal to be gay in Ireland,” Mr Dignam said. “Now we are having a civil partnership, it is pretty amazing the change that’s happened. But we still have places to go yet.”

The Dubliners have become the public face of same-sex weddings here as the first in line to openly exchange vows after the mandatory three-month wait.

Six other gay couples who were granted court exemptions have already signed the partnership register, away from the spotlight, since the laws were enacted at the start of the year.

Around 150 family and friends joined Mr Dignam and Mr Walsh at the 20-minute ceremony on Grand Canal Street near Dublin’s docklands.

Mr Walsh said it was an emotional day and they had difficulty holding back tears at times.

The ceremony included songs by 1980s synthpop chart-topper Howard Jones, with his song 'Someone You Need', and a cover version of 'Prince’s Paisley Park'.

At the end, as registrar Caroline Hamill invited the couple to kiss, there was an orchestral version of Abba’s Dancing Queen.

“Just to send everyone out with a smile on their faces,” said Mr Walsh.

The pair, dressed in suits and patent shoes, are planning a honeymoon in Italy after a celebration in Dublin with their family.

“We’re really, really happy. It’s kind of odd and great and special,” they said.

Mr Dignam, a film maker and lecturer, proposed to his long-term partner, an IT sales manager, during a Christmas holiday in Gran Canaria.

Shortly after the afternoon ceremony, Nicholas Nelson, 52, and Thomas Cahalan, 48, from Greystones, Co Wicklow, also sealed their five-year relationship with a civil partnership.

“When you consider what people went though before, it’s very historic,” said Mr Cahalan.

Social Protection minister Joan Burton described the same-sex unions as momentous.

The Department of Social Protection confirmed six earlier ceremonies – three in Dublin and one each in Tipperary, Cavan and Limerick – the first of which took place on February 7.

Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close became the first couple in the UK and Ireland to get wedded under civil partnership legislation during a ceremony at Belfast’s City Hall in December 2005.

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