The Government is to ask the chair of the Oireachtas Justice Committee to consider reconvening the committee next week to scrutinise the legislation for the referendum on a woman's place in the home.

It comes after committee chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin of Sinn Féin said there are no plans at present for the committee to sit during the summer or before the Dáil returns in mid-September.

That would make the holding of a referendum in late October extremely unlikely.

However, this evening a spokesperson for the Minister for Justice said they believe the October timetable is still feasible.

The Government is proposing that the relevant article referring to a woman's place in the constitution be deleted.

In 2013, the constitutional convention had recommended that it should be amended and replaced with gender neutral wording. It also recommended that the role of carers should be referenced.

Today, the Government asked the Dáil Business committee if it could waive the requirement for the legislation to go before the Justice committee as there were concerns about the tight timeline for holding the referendum.

The committee refused the request.

Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was disappointed by the move and said he would be available to go before the Justice committee next week.

The committee has already held its last meeting before the summer break and there are no plans at present for it to meet until the Dáil returns.

A second referendum on blasphemy and a possible Presidential election are also due to be held on the same day, with the Government currently planning to hold the polls on 25 October.

A Government spokesperson has said that the Government Chief Whip Joe McHugh has spoken to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Flanagan in relation to developments at the committee this morning.

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall raised the matter with Tánaiste Simon Coveney in the Dáil.

"Many of us here, including groups like the National Women's Council of Ireland, were very much of the view that rather a simple repeal, it would be preferable to use this opportunity for public debate on the whole role of caring within families and that would be a better approach to take," she said.

Ms Shortall pointed out that approach was recommended by the Citizens' Assembly.

She noted that a Government request to waive pre-legislative scrutiny was refused by the business committee this morning, and asked if the Government would re-think its approach to the referendum.

Mr Coveney said there have been a number of debates in Cabinet about this issue, and there is very clear legal advice that the recommendation is to remove language from the Constitution.

He added: "If we are going to go through a process of trying to put new language into the constitution reflecting the importance of caring and importance of the home, it would certainly take some time.

"What the Government is proposing to do is follow the legal advice that we have, but also to start the debate and conversation around the concerns you have outlined and others have as well."

Reacting to today's development, the Minister for Health Simon Harris said on Twitter: "That would be extremely disappointing. This is an important issue about making sure our constitution is inclusive and equal and repeals sexist language. It should receive priority and a referendum should take place as planned in October."

Carers group calls for further debate on removal

A group representing carers in Ireland has called for "meaningful discussion" on introducing a more gender neutral phrasing to Article 40.2.1 that would recognise the work of carers in the home.

Catherine Cox, head of communications with Family Carers Ireland, said the "Government should look towards strengthening and providing recognition for all the gender neutral caring work of family carers.

"Family carers help towards alleviating the ongoing problems within our health care system such as bed shortages, over-crowding and long waiting lists.

"The dedication and sacrifices made to achieve this are often overlooked and not fully understood. They deserve proper recognition that acknowledges their important role in our society."

Additional reporting Conor McMorrow, Joe Little