Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has been called on to declare his support for marriage equality for Irish gay couples.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), a rights organization based in Dublin, said it was time for Prime Minister Kenny to follow in the footsteps of Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore in support of full equality (Deputy Gilmore is the most senior member of the Irish government to voice his support for marriage equality to date).

According to GLEN chair Kieran Rose said the forthcoming Irish Constitutional Convention provides the ideal opportunity to address the issue.

'The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) in declaring his support for civil marriage, would give clear political leadership building on the success of civil partnership and the very strong public support for progress to the next step,' he said.

Justice Minister Shatter has previously made his own support for marriage equality clear.

'I believe that individuals should be allowed to get on with their lives freely in circumstances in which their circumstances don’t detrimentally impact on others,' Shatter reportedly said. 'I fully support equality, I fully support civil partnership – and I think it’s in the public interest this Constitution issue be addressed in the Constitutional Convention that is going to be held.'

At the weekend Deputy Prime Minister Gilmore made history when he said he supported full marriage equality for Irish gay couples, adding that the right of gay couples to marry was the civil rights issue for this generation.

Minister Shatter said on Monday there was nothing the Deputy Prime Minister said which he personally disagreed with. However a difficulty could be contained within the language of Ireland’s Constitution which under Article 41 makes reference to marriage.

'That reference in multiple court cases has been defined as referring to a marriage between a man and a woman,' said Shatter. 'This issue is an issue that needs to be addressed and is going to be addressed in the Constitutional Convention.'

Civil partnership for both homosexual and heterosexual partners was introduced in Ireland in 2010. The bill gives couples the same rights in terms of tax, social welfare and other legal issues as married couples, however full marriage rights with greater privileges exist for opposite-sex than those taking Civil Partnerships. In particular, the denial of the right to apply to adopt was seen as a blatant form of discrimination.

Now the issue of same sex marriage will be examined by the Constitutional Convention.

Gay couples are having civil partnerships all over Ireland, which they joyfully celebrate with their families and friends, Rose said. 'They and the enthusiastic public support in polls clearly show that Ireland is ready to move to civil marriage,' he added.

'The people of Ireland, in their open hearted welcoming of civil partnerships have spoken, saying we are entitled to marry. To move to marriage now and provide full Constitutional equality for lesbian and gay people is not a massive legislative leap; it is an incremental step building on the success of Civil Partnership legislation.'