The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty has said she believes there is a "job of work to be done" to convince people to pass the Government’s proposals on the Eighth Amendment.

Speaking to RTÉ News, Ms Doherty said that the vast majority of the Irish people are in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment and taking it out of the Constitution.

But, she added, where the Government has a job of work to do, is to try and explain where the '12 weeks' came from.

The referendum will ask citizens whether they want to retain the Eighth Amendment of the constitution, or repeal it and replace it with an enabling provision that gives responsibility for legislating on abortion laws to the Dáil.

It also proposed that terminations without restriction should be allowed for up to 12 weeks.

Ms Doherty said that the 12 weeks proposal was not just pulled from the sky but that it was evidence based.

The minister said in her opinion, she did not think that had been explained to the Irish people yet.

"Standing right now, if nobody does anything, I don't think this referendum will pass," said Ms Doherty.

"We need to sell, as advocates of people who want to see the Constitution changed and the 12-weeks imposed, that needs to be sold to people and the reasons why that 12-weeks figure was come at," she said.

"That needs to be explained clearly to people with reasons and evidence, so there is a job of work to be done," said Ms Doherty.

In a statement released this evening, Ms Doherty said: "I believe the referendum can and will pass. I, and members of the Government, will campaign for it. But we can't be complacent, which is why I said earlier that we have a job of work to do to sell it."

The Government has committed to the holding of a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, which is expected by the end of May.

It came after the Committee on the Eighth Amendment published its report recommending repeal of Article 40.3.3, which recognises the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child.

The report says that the current Constitutional provision prohibiting the termination of pregnancy in Ireland is unfit for purpose and that constitutional reform is necessary.

Deputy chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign, Cora Sherlock, has said she does not believe the current proposals on the referendum are something the public will accept.

Ms Sherlock said it does not matter whether the Government puts forward a proposal for ten weeks, 12 weeks or 18 weeks, the reality is that when you suggest a repeal of the Eighth Amendment "what you are really talking about is abortion on demand". 

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week programme, Ms Sherlock said ultimately it means that babies in the womb should not have the same protection as the rest of us and added that she does not think that that is something that the public will accept.

However, co-leader of the Social Democrats Róisín Shortall said she does not think there will be an issue with the Government's proposals to replace the Eighth Amendment with access to abortion up to 12 weeks.

Ms Shortall said once people start to concentrate on how you would actually legislate for situations where women should have a right to choose, such as in cases of rape or incest - and also in relation to the fact that we now have a very significant number of Irish women taking the abortion pill - people will realise that the committee have put forward sensible recommendations.

"So when you grapple with those circumstances, and you say: well how do you legislate for that, how do you put it down in black and white, I think increasingly people will come to the conclusion that the committee have made sensible recommendations in that regard," said Ms Shortall.