[JURIST] Following a statement last week by Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahearn that same-sex couples deserved "better rights" (reported here in JURIST's Paper Chase), Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell said Saturday that Ireland should pursue civil partnerships for unwed couples, both heterosexual and homosexual, but should not institute a full process for 'gay marriage'. This was McDowell's first policy speech on the issue following the initiation of a civil suit against the goverment in October by a lesbian couple that were married in Canada in 2003. The couple is seeking to require Irish Revenue, the country's tax collection agency to assign them the income tax credit permited for married couples. McDowell said his remarks were not focussed on sexual orientation, but rather on the reality that modern life puts people together in ways that make them dependant on each other. He suggested that estate, inheritance, tax, and pension law should all be reformed to recognize these 'civil partnerships'. McDowell also stated that seeking to grant gay couples full marriage rights would require an amendment to the 1937 Irish Constitution. The Guardian has more.