Taoiseach Enda Kenny (pictured) believes that the issue of same-sex marriage should be left to the Government's Constitutional Convention.
In response to questions on the issue, Mr Kenny's spokesman said that the Taoiseach believed the issue was best left to be discussed at the Convention.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, Mr Kenny had opposed the idea of same-sex marriage prior to the 2007 General Election.
In an interview with that paper, Mr Kenny said that he didn't believe that same-sex marriage should be legalised.
He said: “No, I don't favour same-sex marriage. We (Fine Gael) were the first party down here to produce a document on civil unions and registration of civil unions, and to deal with tax and hereditary property and all of that-that's as far as we went.”
Mr Kenny's current stance comes after remarks made on Sunday by Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore who said same-sex marriage was “the civil rights issue of this generation”.
Mr Gilmore 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.”
However, Mr Kenny's spokesperson said: “For the first time we are opening up this discussion in a very considered way, and at this point in time, the Taoiseach is deferring to the process.”
The Government's deputy press secretary, speaking for the Labour party, said Mr Gilmore's statement was an expression of personal opinion and not the official Government line.
The director of the Iona Institute, David Quinn, expressed regret that the Taoiseach had not stuck to his original opposition to same-sex marriage.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, he said: “We would prefer the Taoiseach to stick to his original comments and not simply go with the flow that is doing the rounds at the moment.”
He added that, internationally, whenever same-sex marriage had been put to voters in a referendum, it had been defeated.
He said: “Every time this has gone to a popular vote, 31 times in about the last five years, it has lost, with the most recent poll lost in North Carolina (in the US) within the last month.
“The only one we've had in Europe recently was in Slovenia, earlier this year, and even when the pro-gay marriage lobby was 20 points there in the polls, they went on to lost by 10 points.
“The primary reason they all lost is that when the real arguments are presented to the public, people realise that the chief reason that marriage is important is to ensure that children receive the full support of both their parents.”
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, Charlie Flanagan, said that there was “a lot of work to be done on that issue” before same-sex marriage could be legalised.
Speaking on TV3's Vincent Browne show last night, Mr Flanagan said that the Civil Partnership Act, which gave most of the rights of marriage to same-sex couples, was only two years old.
He said: “The reason full gay marriage was not incorporated in that Act at the time was there are some Constitutional difficulties. The courts, to the best of my knowledge, have defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman being consenting partners. So the definition of marriage under our law and our Constitution is a stumbling block.
“That would require a referendum. We have a number of referendums backed up. We have the children's referendum to take place in the autumn of this year, we have the abolition of the Seanad, which will be a referendum held presumably next year and a number of other ones.”
However, Mr Flanagan denied that this implied that a referendum on same-sex marriage would not happen in the lifetime of this Government.