TWO men who have been partners for 17 years will finally get their chance to officially tie the knot this week.
Dubliners Barry Dignam and Hugh Walsh will make history on Tuesday when they become the first gay couple to enter a civil partnership under new legislation.
The ink was barely dry on the minister's signature on the new law when Barry proposed to his long-term partner during their Christmas holiday in Gran Canaria.
But the couple had to wait the mandatory three months before enjoying their big day out.
Tuesday is the first day civil partnership ceremonies can take place under the new law -- and Barry and Hugh are first in line.
"The moment was there and I had to take it," said Barry, explaining why he chose to pop the question over an anniversary dinner with Hugh. "In some ways for us, it will be like a renewal of our vows."
The couple exchanged commitment vows in front of family and friends 10 years ago. But having their partnership recognised by the State is hugely important for both of them.
"If I was in a car crash and was injured, they would be looking for some relation of mine and Barry would be completely ignored, even though he is the most important person in my life," said Hugh, an IT sales manager.
Barry, a film-maker and lecturer, said that after they exchange vows at Dublin's Registry Office at 3.30pm on Tuesday, they will not have to worry about inheritance tax or the house they share, should anything happen to them.
Both still want to see the introduction of full gay-marriage rights but, for the moment, they are happy to become civil partners.
"When we first met, it was still illegal. Now our partnership is going to be recognised by the State. That is a huge journey in one lifetime," said Hugh.
Although Barry proposed, neither is planning to be late on their big day. And after the official service, they are planning a low-key celebratory meal with family and friends. They have also booked a short honeymoon in Venice.