The Dáil has passed without a vote all stages of the Civil Partnership Bill, giving new legal rights to non-marital couples.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said 'it was one of the most important human rights pieces of legislation the House had dealt with.'

'To take account of this Bill, the Government would change the tax and social welfare laws,' he said.

Labour's Brendan Howlin said the Bill gives practical benefits to thousands of people and brings the country further along the road to equality.

Environment Minister John Gormley thanked the Justice Minister for his work on the Bill, which was part of the Programme for Government.

Minister Gormley said the Bill was an act of tolerance and a step forward.

The Bill now goes to the Seanad.

Earlier Green Party TD Ciarán Cuffe said the legislation was about granting civil rights to people who had been denied them for years.

He said the legislation had not gone as far as the Green Party would like, but acknowledged that it represented important progress on a journey that would take years to reach its final destination.

Civil rights groups also say it will transform the lives of thousands of couples.

Fianna Fáil Senator Jim Walsh reiterated his intention to oppose the measure when it comes before the Seanad next week.

Fine Gael TD Seymour Crawford appealed to the Justice Minister to bring in a conscience clause to allow people who have objections to presiding over a civil partnership ceremony to opt out.