Around 250 students at NUI Galway have staged two separate demonstrations on campus, following heated exchanges on the issue of same-sex marriage.

The stand-off began after members of the university's Christian Union society began campaigning for a 'No' vote in a Students' Union referendum on the matter tomorrow.

The society's auditor, Enoch Burke, said literature his members were distributing had been torn up by people with opposing views.

He began holding on to a notice board and refusing to move from his position. He was joined by other members of the society, which he said has in the region of 100 members.

Pamphlets distributed by the group made reference to "men-boy relationships" and spoke of a "slide into an abyss of redefinition" regarding marriage. 

Over 150 students with opposing views gathered around the area at the end of the concourse building to express their support for same-sex marriage. They held signs and staged a sit down protest.

Gardaí attended the scene twice, but no arrests were made.

Shortly after 7pm, members of the Christian Union ended their sit-in and left the building. They were followed by the second group of demonstrators. 

Mr Burke said he felt his members had made their point and stressed the importance of all students' views being respected.

Maria Ní Fhlatharta of the Shout Out society in NUI Galway, which campaigns on the issue of equality for LGBT people, said she was happy with the outcome.

She said it was important to have a balanced debate about gay marriage but that intimidation of same-sex couples could not be tolerated. 

The referendum will proceed as planned tomorrow.