The Tánaiste, Mary Harney, joined the Taoiseach tonight in welcoming Cardinal Desmond Connell to the State reception in his honour at Dublin Castle. At the function, Cardinal Connell said that the Catholic Church profoundly reveres the home, marriage and the family as the foundation for the whole future of society.

Earlier, the Church of Ireland dean of St Patrick's Cathedral declined an invitation in the name of the Taoiseach and Celia Larkin, saying Mr Ahern was projecting his relationship with Ms Larkin as a quasi-marital one.

As Dr Connell arrived at Dublin Castle, Ms Harney replaced Ms Larkin beside the Taoiseach, posing for photographers. Ms Larkin was absent form the platform party and her name was not mentioned by either the Taoiseach or the Cardinal in their speeches.

In an oblique but pointed reference to the controversy, Dr Connell said that the Catholic Church had a profound reverence for the home, designed by God through marriage, and the family as the deep centre of human intimacy on which the whole future of society depended.

Earlier, explaining why he had refused an invitation, Dean Robert McCarthy said that the placing of both Mr Ahern's and Ms Larkin's names on official invitations was intended to indicate that a quasi-marital relationship existed between them. He said, however, the State had a duty to support marriage.