Ireland will have its first official same sex partnership relationship recognized in April 2011, the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern has announced.

The new law allowing gay couples a range of rights comes into effect on 1 January 2011, but it will be three months before the first ceremony is enacted.

It will give the civil partners rights over shared homes, maintenance payments and pensions.

Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern stated the new law recognized the many different relationships in modern Ireland.

"Gay couples, whose relationships have not previously been given legal recognition by the State, may now formalise their relationships in the eyes of the law and society at large," he said.

"Their relationships will be legally recognised and protected.

"Persons in committed gay relationships who wish to share duties and responsibilities now have the choice to register their partnership and become part of a legal regime that fully protects them in the course of that partnership and, if necessary, on its termination."

After they register as a civil partnership, the couple will be treated in the very same way as spouses under tax and social welfare codes.