The Taoiseach has told the Dáil that Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will take six months of paid maternity leave from 30 April.

Minister McEntee will remain a member of the Government without portfolio.

Micheál Martin said that Minister McEntee will be provided with the necessary administrative supports to carry out any limited duties that may arise.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys will be assigned responsibility for the Department of Justice from 1 May to 31 October, in addition to her current portfolio.

Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton will be assigned as Minister of State at the Department of Justice for the same period, while continuing with her duties at the Department of Transport.

Minister of State James Browne will continue in his role at the Department of Justice.

The Taoiseach said ambitious reform would be delivered in the area of maternity leave in line with the Programme for Government.

He said there was a need for permanent reform, to ensure full equality for all public representatives, adding that there was a need to introduce maternity and paternity leave for councillors, senators, TDs and ministers.

"We want to make sure that having a family is in no way in conflict with pursuing a career in public life," he told the Dáil.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

However, he said that such measures would require legislative change and possibly constitutional change.

He said that these matters are under active consideration by relevant Government departments and also by the Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality.

The Government will bring forward proposals once the Citizens' Assembly has considered the matter.

Meanwhile, Minister McEntee said she hopes that her taking maternity leave will be a turning point for those considering a career in public life.

She said she hoped it would show young women and men that those entering into a career in politics and a career in public life are not going to be impeded in any way because they want to have a baby or because they have a young family.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, Ms McEntee said she is really pleased that the Citizens' Assembley on Gender Equality is going to look at the issue and will make recommendations in June so that this change enabling her to take maternity leave will apply to future ministers, TDs, senators and councillors.

The Minister said that the Constitution needs to be looked at in relation to issues concerning limits to the number of ministers that can be appointed which has implications not just for the taking of maternity leave, but also where someone is sick and needs to take time off.

She said that currently, there is no provision to provide cover in a manner that should be available.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Minister McEntee announced in January that she would take time off after the birth of her baby and would try to secure maternity leave for politicians.

She had said that lack of provision for TDs, ministers and senators to take maternity leave is "not a very encouraging signal" for women who want to get into politics. 

Labour TD Duncan Smith welcomed the announcement and wished Minister McEntee and her husband well.

He said it was an important signal to every future mother that this issue was being looked into. 

Bríd Smith of People Before Profit echoed those well wishes. She said a number of her party's councillors have also been affected by such anomalies.

However, she raised concern around Minister Humphreys being granted two portfolios. 

Sinn Féin's Justice spokesperson Martin Kenny said it was important to reform structures to facilitate paternity and maternity leave, while Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick said was important for Ms Humphrey's role to be explained, given that she will occupy two senior Ministries. 

Additional reporting Tommy Meskill