The same-sex marriage referendum, as well as the vote to reduce the age for presidential candidates and a pending Dáil byelection, is likely to be held within the first two weeks of May.
While some Coalition sources said it was likely to be held in the second week of the month – which would point towards Friday, May 15th – others suggested possibly the week before.
The Government yesterday announced the two referendums and the byelection to fill the Dáil seat vacated by Phil Hogan will be held next May, but no firm date has yet been fixed.
However, one Government source indicated the three votes will be held in the second week of May and not on a Saturday. Others stressed they would prefer the referendums to be held earlier in the month but away from the May bank holiday weekend, between Friday May 1st and Monday, May 4th.
The writ for a Dáil byelection must be moved within six months of the seat becoming vacant, and Mr Hogan formally resigned his Carlow-Kilkenny seat on Friday, October 31st.
The period extends to the end of April and the byelection must take place within 15-21 days, excluding Sundays, once the writs have been moved.
As well as the same-sex marriage referendum, and the vote to lower the age limit for presidential candidates from 35 to 21, another two are outstanding arising from the constitutional convention. One is to lower the voting age from 18 to 16, and the other is to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.
While a Government spokesman said the voting age referendum is still being considered, it is highly unlikely any more referendums will be held during the remainder of the Coalition's term of office. The Government has agreed a Referendum Commission be established for the presidential candidate vote, with Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly allocating €1.2 million.
In a statement, Tánaiste Joan Burton said the same-sex marriage vote is a “a mark of the progress that has taken place in this country in recent years and decades, and indicates the extent to which attitudes to lesbian and gay people have changed”.
has delivered on an election promise and added that, upon her election as Labour leader and Tánaiste, she promised to campaign to win the referendum.
The exact wording of the question has yet to be drafted but Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said it must be clear.
“The referendum will provide an important opportunity for people to decide whether all couples, regardless of their sexual orientation, will have the opportunity to get married and to have constitutionally protected relationships.”
Fine Gael Cork-South Central TD Jerry Buttimer, chair of his party's LGBT group, said the announcement of the referendum timing "will focus minds on the issues and what needs to be done".
Labour's John Lyons, co-chair of his party's LGBT group, said: "It's been clear for some time that momentum has been building in favour of marriage equality, and that the vast majority of Irish people support extending civil marriage, and a more equal citizenship, to gay and lesbian couples."