A process to deal with examining the Eighth Amendment should be completed in the next government, Tánaiste Joan Burton has said.

Ms Burton and Taoiseach Enda Kenny were speaking at the annual review of the Programme for Government.

The Tánaiste also said the process to deal with the issue should be completed in a year to a year-and-a-half in the next government, before a referendum would take place on repealing the amendment.

Mr Kenny said: "I loathe to put a date on a referendum because these things need to be teased out properly, but obviously it will happen in the course of the next few years in the life of the next government.

And I say that against a presumption, without being presumptuous, that the people will return the present Government".

A Government spokesperson tonight said that the Taoiseach was referring to the timeline around the process of addressing the issue and not committing to holding a referendum in that timeline. 

Last week, Mr Kenny indicated that if the Fine Gael-Labour coalition was re-elected, cabinet ministers would be allowed a free vote in the event of a referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

However, a Government spokesperson said that the Taoiseach’s remarks related solely to voting.

The spokesperson added that it was "too premature" to be discussing the issue of how ministers should campaign on the issue.