Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister says the government “must win” a future referendum on equal marriage and concedes that victory is by no means a certainty.

“It is important that we win this referendum. It is an important issue and we know from referenda on social issues before that it is important to do some preparation before the referendum is held,” Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said to reporters on Tuesday.

It is not clear if the Irish Government will state today when exactly the referendum will be held – although a decision is due this week.

Mr Gilmore has said a public vote could take place in late 2014 or early 2015.

Over the weekend, Ireland’s Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, was warned by members of his Fine Gael party that a referendum on equal marriage could be lost – simply because the Irish people are suffering from “referendum fatigue”. 

Despite opinion polls showing a three-to-one majority in favour of marriage equality, political commentators believe the final result could be a lot closer, especially if anti-equal marriage opponents successfully use the influential platform of Ireland’s Catholic Church to propel their message.

Several public votes on a range of constitutional matters took place last month. In the referendum to abolish Ireland’s Upper House in its Parliament (Seanad) and establish a new Court of Appeal turnout was just 39%.

The Chairman of the Constitutional Convention, Tom Arnold, called for greater public awareness of referendums in Ireland last month, following Mr Kenny’s remarks about the cabinet moving to make its decision on equal marriage clear.

Mr Kenny promised last week that Ireland’s cabinet will soon declare it response to the Constitutional Convention’s recommendation on legalising civil equal marriage.