Irish deputy prime minister (Tánaiste) Eamon Gilmore says he would like to see a referendum on same-sex marriage “as soon as possible”.

Mr Gilmore said his own view was that the “time has come” for Ireland to introduce marriage rights for gay couples. “I don’t believe we should postpone what is a human right,” he told RTÉ radio.

In response, Moninne Griffith, the director of Ireland’s Marriage Equality organisation welcomed Mr Gilmore’s comments and said:

“Now is the time for marriage equality, and we want Ireland to lead this movement for equality along with countries like Spain and Portugal, and not fall behind.”

Ireland’s constitutional convention is due to look at the issue next month.

Mr Gilmore leads the Irish Labour Party which is currently in government with its coalition partner, Fine Gael.

He also said that Ireland’s success of winning a seat on the UN Human Rights Council was not only a measure of the restoration of Ireland’s reputation, but a vindication of the country’s human rights record.

In October, Ireland’s former president Mary McAleese announced her support for equal marriage.

During an interview with RTE, Mrs McAleese, who is one of Ireland’s most prominent Catholics, said that she had “no problem with it at all”.

Civil partnerships became legal in the country in February 2011.