Fine Gael has proposed giving greater rights to same sex couples and heterosexual couples who choose not to marry.

The party's Civil Partnership proposals, launched this afternoon by spokesperson Senator Sheila Terry, would allow a gay or straight couple to formally register their partnership with the State.

This would allow them to avail of rights in the areas of pensions, social welfare, property, tax, succession and next of kin.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network welcomed the Fine Gael initiative. It particularly welcomed the clear recognition of the rights of non-EU partners of Irish people.