Enda Kenny told the Dáil a UN report on Irish abortion law is non-binding
The Children's Minister Katherine Zappone says the end of 2017 is a "realistic" date for a vote on abortion.
Her assessment follows comments from Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who said a United Nations report on abortion laws is not binding.
Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Committee called for our constitutional ban on abortion to be scrapped, as it subjects women to suffering and discrimination.
Mr Kenny said they will start setting up a citizens assembly next week to look at the eighth amendment, which ensures the protection of the unborn.
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, he said: "My view is that if we were to decide to have a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment in October, it would not be passed.
"There needs to be a real discussion here. If we are going to attempt to remove this from the Constitution, people will want to know what we intend to replace it with.
"The UN committee's verdict in this sensitive and distressing case is non-binding. It is not like the European court.
"It is right and proper for us to follow the route of having a properly selected citizens' assembly that is able to do its business of reflecting on the eighth amendment and what it might mean."
He said the assembly will consider what changes, if any, should be made to the eighth amendment and how they might be made.
While Minister Zappone says the citizens assembly is not the slowest way to go about this.
"Ultimately, I think we all have our eye on the end goal, which is that we will have a referendum", she told Newstalk Breakfast.
"I am trying to champion this, I asked for this to be discussed at the Cabinet table on Tuesday - we did discuss it."