Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged that he will campaign strongly in favour of the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Speaking in Dublin tonight he said the Government had considered the strong recommendation of the Constitutional Convention that a question be put to the people “in respect of the equality issue of gay marriage”.
He said the Cabinet had made the decision to put a number of the convention’s recommendations to the people by mid-2015.
"In respect of today's decision I support that very strongly and will campaign for it when it comes," said the Taoiseach. It was Mr Kenny's first public declaration that he will back the campaign for same- sex marriage. He was speaking at a function to mark the 25th anniversary of the Dublin Business Innovation Centre.
Earlier in the day the Cabinet made the decision to hold the referendum on the recommendation of Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that the issue should be put to the people.
Among the other proposals to be put to the people is a reduction in the voting age to 17, the extension of voting rights to emigrants, the deletion of the reference in the Constitution to women in the home and deletion of the offence of blasphemy.
Mr Shatter said he was very pleased the Government had agreed to hold a referendum on same-sex marriage during the first half of 2015.
"My department will be engaged over the next 12 months with the Attorney General on the framing of the specific amendment to the Constitution and on the drafting of the Bill required for the referendum on this important matter," he said.
Mr Shatter also briefed the Cabinet today on the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2013 which deals with the issue of guardianship by same-sex couples. He hopes to bring a draft of the Bill to Cabinet by Christmas.
The Government is also planning to bring forward a separate Bill allowing same sex-couples to adopt children.
Cork South Central Fine Gael TD and chair of the party’s LGBT Group, Jerry Buttimer, tonight said the decision to hold a referendum on marriage equality during the first half 2015 is a momentous step towards a truly inclusive, diverse and equal society.
“It is further evidence that our society has evolved and is becoming a place where, regardless of sexual orientation, you are treated as an equal citizen,” he said.