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Happy couples ring the changes with civil unions

A touching exchange of vows and a celebratory kiss, and the newly hitched couple left the registrar's office to the strains of Abba's 'Dancing Queen'.

Dubliners Barry Dignam (40) and Hugh Walsh (43) made history yesterday when they became one of the first couples to exchange vows under legislation introduced in January which allows same-sex civil partnership.

Barry wore a black suit, polka dot tie and patent grey shoes, while Hugh looked equally suave in a grey suit, purple shirt and black patent slip-ons.

The pair, who have been a couple for 17 years, confessed that the ceremony was an emotional one, with a "few cryers" among the 50 guests.

They exchanged statements of mutual commitment, interspersed with musical favourites, including Howard Jones's 'Someone you Need'.

The recording of 'Dancing Queen' was intended "to gay it up a little bit", joked Barry.

Although they were not the first gay couple to exchange vows under the new legislation, they knew their ceremony would attract media interest because it was the first to take place after the statutory notice period.

Six others have officially "tied the knot" since January after being granted a court exemption to bypass the three-month notice period.

And Barry and Hugh's guests were unfazed by the media attention, instead turning their own cameras on the posse of photographers waiting for a first shot of the happy couple.

After the ceremony, Hugh said he felt "elated" and Barry said: "It's brilliant, we are really, really happy."


The resolution of inheritance and next-of-kin issues was a major factor in their decision to enter into civil partnership. But both stressed the importance of granting gay couples full marriage rights.

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Just moments after the Terenure couple exchanged vows, another couple and their guests filed in to do the same.

Nicolas Nelson (52), from Templeogue, and Thomas Cahalane (48), from Nenagh, Co Tipperary, wore matching yellow roses in their lapels.

Thomas said he was "very excited" and it was "great that it is actually happening", while his partner of five years, Nicolas, said he was "very happy".

The couple, who live in Greystones, also advocated full marriage rights for gay couples.

After the ceremony, they were planning a quiet celebration in Saba and the Shelbourne, while Barry and Hugh were hosting dinner at the Dylan hotel.

A total of 274 same sex couples have applied to enter civil partnerships to date.

Gay rights group Noise stressed that civil partnership was not equal to marriage and called on the Government to give marriage rights to all.

But Dr John Murray, of the pro-Christian Iona Institute, said civil partnerships should not be used as a stepping stone to same-sex marriage.

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