The Irish prime minister, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he will not be drawn into taking a position on whether marriage should be available to gay couples before a constitutional convention examines the issue.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had pushed the prime minister for his view after the deputy prime minister made his support for gay marriage rights public earlier this month.

Mr Gilmore is the leader of the Irish Labour Party and serves as Deputy Prime Minister in a coalition government with Mr Kenny’s Fine Gael party.

But responding to the Fianna Fáil leader’s question, Mr Kenny said: “Deputy Martin will not pressurise me as a citizen, or as leader of the Government, into a box-ticking exercise.”

According to the Irish Times, he said the party had supported civil partnerships and continued to do so.

Mr Kenny said there was only one prime minister, to which Mr Martin said there was similarly only one tánaiste, or deputy prime minister, but he had made his views clear.

The Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore had said: “I believe in gay marriage. The right of gay couples to marry is, quite simply, the civil rights issue of this generation, and, in my opinion, its time has come.”

A constitutional convention, which will meet to examine potential changes to the Irish Constitution, will report to the government on the question of marriage rights for gay couples. Mr Martin suggested the prime minister was waiting to take his cue from the convention report.

Elsewhere, plans for the 100-person convention have been welcomed by equal marriage advocates.

Marriage Equality Director Moninne Griffith said: “We are delighted the Government has begun the process of establishing the Constitutional Convention.

“Now is the time for marriage equality. In the past few weeks alone we’ve seen an increasing number of [Teachtaí Dála] come out in favour of civil marriage for same sex couples, joining the 73% of Irish people who believe that same sex couples, our families and our children deserve equality.

“This Convention is the opportunity for us as a country to take the next step as a modern, democratic country that has respect for diversity and that believes in equality.”

She added: “The Constitutional Convention is our chance as a nation to further enshrine those essential Irish values of justice, equality, fairness, and respect in the Constitution. We look forward to working with the members of the Constitutional Convention to protect same sex couples and families, and to ensure that they are treated equally under the law by enshrining marriage equality in the Irish Constitution.”